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V^ 1 \ D o/. O 


Published March iqmj 

l^ain Lib. 






The author offers this brief Life of Martin 
Luther as her contribution to the literature of 
the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Refor- 
mation. The volume contains no original ma- 
terial, but is intended to serve as an introduc- 
tion to the longer, richer, and more scholarly 
records of a great life which abound and to 
the noble writings of the Reformer himself. 
Grateful acknowledgment is made to the biog- 
raphers of Luther, especially to Dr. Henry E. 
Jacobs, to Dr. Preserved Smith, and to Heinrich 
Bohmer, the author of Luther in the Light of 
Recent Research. 

January, 1917. 


I. Youth 1 

II. Monk, Teacher, and Preacher ... 25 

III. The Ninety-five Theses and their Effect 43 

IV. The Primary Works of the Reformation 

AND the Diet of Worms 62 

V. At the Wartburg and back in Wittenberg 84 
•Vl. Marriage and Family Life .... 98 

VII. The Growing Church 113 

Vin. Last Years and Death 125 




In his parting discourse our Lord commanded 
his disciples to carry his gospel to the uttermost 
parts of the earth. Late in the sixth century, 
Pope Gregory I, obeying the divine command, 
sent the monk Augustine with a band of forty 
companions to persuade the Angles and Saxons 
to become Christians. The Pope, while yet a 
bishop, had seen in the Roman slave market fair 
blue-eyed captives from distant Britain. *'They 
are not Angles," said he, " but Angels, and it 
becomes such to become co-heirs with the angels 
in heaven." 

In a few years the English Church had grown 
to be the glory of Western Christendom, not 
only for its spiritual unity, its fine organization, 
its learning, but because of its many missionary 
enterprises. The most famous of its missiona- 
ries was Wynfrith or Boniface, the "Apostle to 
Germany." Devoted to Rome, diligent and 


truly evangelical, he overturned idols, preached 
against heathenish superstition, built churches 
and monasteries, and carefully instructed his 
converts. In 754 he and his companions were 
massacred by the heathen on the shores of the 
North Sea. 

About seven hundred years later, on the 10th 
of November, 1483, there was born at Eisleben, 
a village in Thuringia, a part of Boniface's mis- 
sion field, Martin Luther. 

The Germany of 1483, though no longer merely 
an aggregation of forest tribes, was not yet a na- 
tion but a loose coalition of independent states 
which gave to the House of Hapsburg the im- 
perial title. Under the greatest Hapsburg, Max- 
imilian I, who ascended the throne in 1493, was 
first to be seen a strong tendency to union and 

A union might have been consummated many 
centuries before it came about had not the Ger- 
man rulers been ever more concerned with cam- 
paigns for foreign conquest than for the welfare 
of their own kingdom. While England, France, 
and Spain were growing into distinct nations, 
the German states, devoted to the imperial 
idea and divided by internal jealousies, re- 
mained apart. Within them the free cities, in- 


sisting upon their rights and disputing with 
nobles and princes, constituted another element 
of independence, another obstacle to union. In 
addition the great spiritual states, answerable 
only to the Pope, opposed all interests but their 

In the cities German life was most rich and 
varied and the German spirit most free. Here, 
churches, public buildings of all kinds in the 
Gothic style, towered city walls and private 
houses with tall, peaked roofs and projecting 
stories, delighted the artist's eye. Here the 
great guilds provided for the laboring-man a life 
as interesting and varied as that of the noble. 
Here was to be found the most keen and active 
intellectual life. The Minnesingers were gone, 
but didactic and satiric poets had taken their 
place and the Meistersingers were beginning to 
express the sturdy and cheerful life of the artisan. 

Outside of the cities existence was for the most 
part dull and bitter, especially among the poor, 
upon whom was laid an insupportable burden 
of taxes. The forests might abound in game, 
but the peasant was not permitted to hunt; the 
streams be filled with fish, but he dared not 
cast a line. Sometimes an enemy sowed weeds 
in productive fields so as to make them useless. 



and frequently he destroyed the ripened crops. 
A love of adventure carried about the country 
thousands who neither possessed nor desired a 
home, and who by their vagrant life and moral 
looseness influenced disastrously the character 
of the people. 

To add to the confusion of spirit a hideous pes- 
tilence visited Europe in the fourteenth century, 
the ''Black Death," carried thither from the 
East. Few authentic statistics of its destruction 
remain, but it is the opinion of conservative 
historians that one fourth of the inhabitants of 
Europe and one half of the inhabitants of Ger- 
many perished. Upon the remnant the effect was 
appalling. All restraint was thrown aside, all 
moral obligation forgotten. As in France and 
other countries, so in Germany, Jews were tor- 
tured and murdered by the thousand because 
the terrified and ignorant populace held them 
responsible for the calamity. A widespread re- 
ligious movement seemed about to start under 
the terror of the plague, but when the plague 
ended^the anxiety of men about their souls ended 

In the vast ecclesiastical circle, that segment 
which was first traced by the hand of Boniface 
had never been so closely bound to the center as 


many other portions of the Church. Independ- 
ent and freedom-loving, insisting upon the right 
of private judgment, the Germans, who had 
never united into a real nation, had stilf less 
allowed themselves to come entirely under the 
domination of the See of Rome which controlled 
and shaped the course of the Christian Church 
and had made its bishop Pope. While there were 
gradually imposed upon the Germans the super- 
stition, the useless and worse than useless ordi- 
nances of the Roman Church, there persisted 
a true evangelical religion which found its ex- 
pression in writings like those of Tauler and 
the author of *'A German Theology." The un- 
willingness of many hearts to accept in their 
entirety the teachings of Rome and their horror 
at her corruption are seen in the eagerness with 
which they enlisted under the banner of reform 
when it was once lifted. 

That the Church had forgotten the behests of 
her great Founder may be proved from her own 
records. The plain and simple teaching of Christ 
had been overlaid and obscured by misconcep- 
tion and perversion. Men went no longer di- 
rectly to the Scriptures for the source and au- 
thority for their belief, and they applied no 
more directly in faith to Christ for the healing 


of their souls. Generations of theologians had 
believed and had taught that man could win 
God's forgiveness for sin by his own good works, 
— his penances, his fasts, his journeys to sacred 
shrines, his gifts to charity and to the Church, and 
his own holiness of life, — whereas the Founder 
of the Church had taught that man was forgiven 
solely because of his faith in Christ. 

Each great or small departure from the pure 
doctrine of the early Church had brought about 
evils peculiar to itself. The acceptance of the 
Pope as the Vicar of Christ, with sole power to 
bind and loose, with spiritual and temporal over- 
lordship in all the world, not only made men 
slaves, but bred dangerous confusion in the 
minds which saw a human being, fallible, some- 
times immoral and even basely corrupt, in a 
position so lofty and so powerful. The seven 
sacraments, administrable only by the clergy 
and supposed to be necessary for man's salva- 
tion, became the instruments of an almost un- 
endurable tyranny. The doctrine of transub- 
stantiation gave rise to sensual and gross ideas 
of a holy mystery. The confession required of 
the laity put the conscientious into the power 
of an ignorant and sometimes evil priesthood, 
and did not profit the indifferent or wicked. The 


celibacy of the clergy, the exaltation of a life 
of so-called " chastity," resulted harmfully, not 
only in the reproach which it cast upon mar- 
ried life, but in the evils arising from the sup- 
pression of the natural affections of the human 
heart. The monasteries, which had blessed the 
world with many saints and uncounted deeds 
of charity and mercy, and which had performed 
a noble work in the preservation of learning 
which would otherwise have perished, fre- 
quently sheltered large numbers of shameless 
men who, separated from the world, idle, de- 
prived of the occupations natural to mankind, 
became a menace instead of a blessing. 

The enormous wealth of the Church founded 
upon her landed possessions and increased by 
tribute from every hamlet of the Christian 
world, her luxury and her pomp had been for 
many years sharply condemned by protesting 
though devoted sons. In the twelfth century 
St. Bernard held before the Papacy " the mirror 
in which it could recognize its deformities." 
Said he: "I do not find that St. Peter ever ap- 
peared in public lorxied with jewels and clad 
in silk, mounted on a white mule, surrounded 
by soldiers, and followed by a brilliant retinue. 
In the glitter that environs thee, rather wouldst 


thou be taken for the successor of Constantine 
than for the successor of Peter." Warning the 
Pope against lust for power, he reminded him 
that he was *'a man, naked, poor, miserable, 
made for toil and not for honors." 

Among the new and growing abuses were the 
worship of the Virgin Mary and the saints and 
the reverencing of countless and often revolting 
relics of which churches boasted, pieces of bone, 
locks of hair, or bits of wood and stone to which 
was attributed not only a holy history, but mi- 
raculous power to heal. The opening of the 
catacombs created a supply of fragments of the 
human body so great that individual churches 
counted their gruesome treasures by the thou- 
sand and collected vast sums from those who 
came to gaze upon them and to pay them 

Another abuse which grew to large propor- 
tions, and which was the source of great wealth 
to the Church and the reason for great scandal, 
was the selling of so-called "indulgences." In 
the early Church the wrongdoer confessed his 
sins in the presence of the congregation and 
accompanied his confession with a promise to 
perform certain acts to prove his penitence. 
Later, private confession took the place of pub- 


lie confession, and penanees, such as fasting, or 
a journey to a distant shrine, were imposed by 
the priest. Still later, prayers, almsgiving, or 
even the paying of money were substituted for 
more burdensome tasks. Such penalties were 
supposed to free only from those punishments 
which the Church imposed on earth; they could 
not release the soul from the punishments ap- 
pointed by God. 

Finally the ignorant laity, uncorrected by an 
ignorant priesthood, attributed an almost un- 
limited power to the indulgences or pardons 
which one could buy. Not only did the indul- 
gence cover the sins of the past, but those of the 
future; not only did it free from ecclesiastical 
punishment, but from punishment in purgatory. 
Contrition ceased in the minds of many men to 
be a part of the process by which one secured 
forgiveness ; all that was required was the ap- 
pointed sum of money. 

The Bible was a sealed book, not by any fiat of 
the Church, but because it was regarded with 
indifference. Theologians had interpreted it 
with such skill and perspicuity that their com- 
ments were believed to be more valuable for the 
priest than acquaintance with the original. In 
far greater degree was the interpretation of the 


Church all that the layman needed to concern 
himself with. 

Thus by human authority and by the power 
of superstition, and not by love and reasonable 
faith, did the Church rule her subjects. 

In all parts of Christendom there were signs 
of an approaching revolt, signs which were at 
first unheeded, then quenched by all the power 
of the Church's wide-reaching arms. In Eng- 
land Wy cliff e, *'the Morning Star of the Ref- 
ormation," translated the entire Bible into the 
English tongue. His translation, widely circu- 
lated in manuscript copies, was diligently read. 
When his doctrines reached Bohemia, John 
Huss, who received them and began to spread 
them abroad, was burned at the stake. Later, 
another convert, Jerome of Prague, met a similar 
fate, and many others were cruelly persecuted 
and slain. In Italy, Savonarola, an earnest 
preacher of righteousness who pleaded for a re- 
form within the Church, was executed and his 
body burned. In the south of France the Al- 
bigenses paid with their lives for doubting the 
infallibility of the Pope. Everywhere the theory 
that laymen might rule where only priests had 
ruled was gaining credence, and here and there 
peasant uprisings, as yet feeble and unorgan- 


ized, were showing that even the serf had begun 
to think. The young nations became more and 
more unwilling to allow the Church to exercise 
that control over their affairs which she claimed 
as her right. Between the Pope and Germany 
especially there was constant irritation and 

There came about through Europe at this 
time a great awakening and quickening of the 
human mind, as though a Spirit of Enlighten- 
ment had touched the nations with a magic 
wand. The various phases of this awakening are 
so closely related that none can be said to be the 
cause or the effect of any other, but all are parts 
of a vast movement. Great stores of valuable 
scientific knowledge were opened to the West by 
the Saracens. The lost and forgotten writings 
of Greece and Rome were once more read and 
admired. The modern languages which were 
taking shape offered a new vehicle for fresh lit- 
erature. The invention of printing from type 
and the substitution of paper for parchment 
made possible the broad spreading of knowledge 
of all kinds. 

Upon the spiritual rule of the Pope this 
searching after knowledge had an incalculable 
effect. Men thought more, they began to com- 


pare with the mediaeval formulas of Rome the 
scientific theories of which they heard now for 
the first time. The printing-press enabled those 
bold thinkers who questioned the worship of 
the Virgin Mary, the use of images, and the con- 
fession to a priest to spread their objections 
widely. The moral standards of the Church were 
attacked, and her purification was freely dis- 
cussed. But the discussion was for the most part 
that of private conversation. Against the evils 
which many deplored few dared to lift a public 

Into the Church as well as into the world was 
now born Martin Luther, the son of peasants, 
Hans and Margareta (Ziegler) Luther. His 
birthplace, Eisleben, was the principal village 
in the thickly forested county of Mansfield in 
the Duchy of Thuringia, where his father oper- 
ated a small furnace for the smelting of copper. 
On the second day of his life the little boy was 
baptized in the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, 
being given the name Martin in honor of the 
saint whose day it was. 

The Luthers were poor; indeed, in their early 
married life only the narrowest of margins sepa- 
rated them from want. They had, however, as 
much as their neighbors, and their hearts were 


content. Their house was tiny; its windows were 
filled with horn and not with glass, and its floor 
was of earth. When Margareta went to the 
forest for wood for her fire, it was probably with 
no complaint, but with rejoicing that there was 
wood to be had. 

Their honesty and industry were presently 
rewarded by a fair measure of success. When 
Martin was six months old, his father left 
Eisleben for Mansfield, where he expected to 
better his fortunes, and here he and his wife lived 
until their death. From the renter of a single 
furnace, Hans came to be the owner of two. The 
Counts of Mansfield respected him and he was 
made a member of the village council. Beside 
being honest and industrious, he was full of com- 
mon sense and sturdy independence, traits which 
were a part of the inheritance which he gave his 
son. This independence was shown in his atti- 
tude toward the Church and the priests. When 
he was urged during an illness to leave money to 
the Church, he answered that he would leave his 
money to his children who needed it more. 

Margareta was a true daughter of the Church. 
To her every monk was a holy man, every trans- 
gression of the rules of the Church a transgres- 
sion of the laws of God. She was not only pious. 


but deeply superstitious. The strange and aw- 
ful dwellers in the Thuringian woods, which 
crowded close upon the little town, — gnomes, 
demons, and evil spirits, — had not been wholly 
banished by the good Boniface, but were still 
likely to threaten those who stayed too late 
away from home. Beneath the ground were the 
dim caverns of the mines, where even the Evil 
One himself might dwell. Fear of the Turk and 
a lingering terror of the plague found place also 
in the heart of Margareta and were by her im- 
pressed upon her children. Nevertheless she was 
a cheerful soul, who told her little boy again and 
again, *'If the world smiles not on you and me, 
the fault is ours.'* 

To Martin she taught the simple faith which 
the peasants cherished, that faith which was to be 
kindled in his keeping from a spark to an enlight- 
ening flame. He learned the Ten Command- 
ments, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and a few 
simple hymns. He learned to respect the holy 
monks, to reverence the Holy Father in distant 
and sacred Rome, and to gaze with trembling awe 
upon the fragments of the skeletons of saints and 
the tiny pieces of their garments. He learned that 
God and Christ were stern judges, who looked 
with loathing upon sin, who could be placated 


by pilgrimages and penances, and who could be 
best served in monasteries and convents. He 
saw in the church at Mansfield a painted window 
which represented Christ, armed with a sword, 
his face stern, coming to judge the world. Deep 
in his heart there lay constantly a fear that he 
would have no happy fate in that day. 

Like other children of pious parents he was 
trained with the most careful strictness. Both at 
home and at school he was punished with the 
rod. He records that his mother, who loved him 
so dearly, beat him until the blood came for 
having taken a nut from the household stores. 
He tells also of fifteen whippings received during 
one morning in school. It is a relief to remem- 
ber that he was in youth, as well as in later life, 
full of a mischievous playfulness and that the 
beatings could not all have been severe. To 
his parents he gave the warmest affection as 
long as they lived, therefore their punishments 
were not so terrible as to leave him bitter or 

Until he was thirteen years old he attended 
school at Mansfield. The lower schools were 
everywhere poor; Martin described them after- 
wards as "hell and purgatory" and their ex- 
aminations as trials for murder. The children 


spent a long time learning the little Latin which 
was the chief subject of instruction. 

If he had ever wished to leave school and its 
stern and stupid master, he would have received 
no encouragement from home. For his boy, Hans 
Luther had a great ambition. He himself had 
been a miner, but his son was to have a profes- 
sion, the law, and was to become a man of in- 
fluence. All the future was clear even to the 
day when Martin should establish himself with 
a rich wife selected by his father and should be- 
come magistrate of Mansfield. 

When Martin was thirteen he was sent to 
Magdeburg to school. Here he was a '*poor stu- 
dent," that is, he had the sort of free scholarship 
which the schools of the day offered. He paid 
neither rent nor tuition and w^as given the privi- 
lege of begging his bread in the streets. In turn, 
he sang as a chorister in the church. Of the 
experiences of the year we know little except 
that his life was hard and that he had a severe 
illness. It is probable that his learning was not 
much increased. 

Various events which he spoke of afterwards 
strengthened the deep concern of his heart for 
his salvation. In the streets of Magdeburg he 
saw " with my own eyes'*^ — so he writes — 


**a Prince of Anhalt who went in a friar's cowl 
on the highways to beg bread, and carried a 
sack like a donkey, so heavy that he bent under 
it. He did all the works of the cloister like any 
other brother, watched and mortified his flesh so 
that he looked like a death's head, mere skin 
and bones." Here was a way to satisfy the stern 
Judge of heaven! 

He saw each Sunday and many times in the 
week a picture over the altar in the Magdeburg 
church in which a boat filled with monks and 
nuns was sailing heavenward. Here was per- 
haps the only way to satisfy the stern Judge! 
Associating constantly with the monks, he had 
doubtless laid before him many times the earthly 
blessings and the heavenly rewards of a religious 

After a year at Magdeburg, Martin was sent 
to Eisenach, which was his mother's birthplace. 
A relative of hers, Conrad Hutter, was the sex- 
ton of St. Nicolas Church, and she hoped for 
his help for her boy. Here again Martin was 
a *'poor student" and begged his bread from 
house to house. Now, in response not only to 
his knock, but to his clear, high treble voice and 
the appeal of his dark eyes, whose deep gaze was 
noted by friend and enemy throughout his life. 


an important door was opened to him, that of the 
Cotta family, who thenceforth took him in as 
one of themselves. 

In the Cotta household he lived a new life. 
Loved and tenderly treated, no longer pinched 
by hunger, surrounded by refinement, he knew 
happiness which he had probably never im- 
agined. When he spoke of Eisenach in later 
days, it was to call it '*that dear city." 

Now his mind grew as well as his body and 
soul. St. George's School which he attended 
was excellent and he learned rapidly. Here 
ruled a different spirit from any he had known. 
The teachers, among them the learned Trebonius, 
armed themselves, not with the rod, but with 
kindness and consideration. Trebonius always 
removed his scholar's cap when he entered his 
classroom, because of the embryo rulers, magis- 
trates, and scholars whom he thought he saw 
before him. Llere Martin heard for the first time 
of the ancient classics which were coming to light 
from forgotten libraries and were being circu- 
lated among the intellectuals ; here he found food 
for his constantly increasing mental hunger. 

In Eisenach, Martin's association with monks 
continued, both in the Cotta household and in 
the church to which his duties as chorister took 


him daily. He saw in the church another pic- 
ture, that of a devout young woman, St. Eliza- 
beth, of whose traditional kindness to the poor 
and devotion to heavenly things all Eisenach 
spoke with awe. In his walks he must have 
looked many times toward the castle of Wart- 
burg crowning a wooded hill where Elizabeth 
had lived. In her life was another answer to his 
longing question, "I am a great sinner — what 
must I do to be saved .f^" 

In May, 1501, Martin left Eisenach for the 
University of Erfurt. The prosperity for which 
Hans Luther had toiled w^as in sight and with it 
his ambition for his boy grew more keen. Now 
Martin was no longer a " poor student," but paid 
his way and had, we may conjecture, money 
to spend. Gay and light-hearted, handsome, 
friendly, anxious to learn, he had upon enter- 
ing the university as pleasant a prospect as any 
youth could wish. 

Erfurt was at this time the intellectual center 
of Germany. Hither came students, not only from 
all sections of the Empire, but from outside its 
bounds. Here there was a fine library, here were 
famous teachers, here a keen and eager intellec- 
tual life. A proverb, current throughout Ger- 
many, expressed the fame of the university, 


'*He who would study rightly must go to Er- 
furt.*' It is likely that the lad sighed often over 
the shortness of the days. 

Like many other cities of Germany, Erfurt 
was picturesque and beautiful. It lay on the bank 
of the river Gera and had within its walls noble 
examples of mediseval art, among them the 
cathedral and the great Church of St. Severinus. 
Tall towers, beautiful sculptures and bronzes, 
exquisite stained glass, and fine bells attracted 
the heart to the beauties of the religion which 
they set forth. The university was a low, mo- 
nastic building, with a steep roof and a hand- 
somely carved portal. 

The city offered a gay social life to those who 
wished it. In this Martin took some part, though 
study was his chief occupation. His compan- 
ions recalled in after years his merry disposition 
and his skill in song and in playing the lute. 

In preparation for the law, he studied the 
general course offered by the university, logic, 
grammar and rhetoric, arithmetic, natural 
sciences, ethics and metaphysics. The accepted 
authority was Aristotle, whose teachings were 
held to be infallible. The investigation and 
experimentation which is the foundation of 
modern scientific training was unheard of. The 


philosophers debated dull and profitless ques- 
tions which had little relation to life. To them, 
however, Luther applied himself earnestly. Of 
his other studies he enjoyed most keenly as- 
tronomy, "whose subject-matter was the starry 
sky," and logic, which "teaches one to say a 
thing distinctly and plainly and in short, clear 

The study of the new classics must have been 
tempting to the young Luther, but his strongest 
inclination was toward more serious subjects. 
Still the relation of man to God was the chief 
concern of his mind, and in the solution of 
this problem he expected the help of the phi- 
losophers. One day in the library at Erfurt he 
found a copy of the Bible and opening it read 
the story of Hannah and Samuel. But the book 
was connected in his mind with none of his diffi- 
culties, though he rejoiced to have found the 
volume from which the Scripture lessons of the 
missal and breviary were taken. Closing it, he 
thought of it no more. 

Through his years at Erfurt, Luther could not 
have escaped hearing attacks upon the Church 
in which he hoped to be saved. The tendency of 
the humanists was away from the Church, many 
of whose practices they ridiculed. Followers 


of Huss, still holding in secret their belief, came 
quietly into the town and stole quietly away. 
Though the city had within its walls over a 
hundred buildings owned by the Church and 
devoted to religious purposes, including eight 
monasteries, and though it was known as "Lit- 
tle Rome," it could not have been free from 
the scornful or bitter comments which were 
finding their way into print. The lives of indi- 
vidual monks, sung in coarse verse and pointed 
in vulgar epigram, must have been in the eyes of 
Luther a scandal and a shame. But he did not 
condemn the Church for the unworthy behavior 
of a few. He remained her devout son, believing 
all she taught. The very wickedness of those 
who were dedicated to God brought more and 
more clearly and constantly before him the aw- 
fulness of human sin and the dreadful fate of 
those who were not saved. A visitation of the 
plague in which friends and companions died 
about him, and a great storm to which he was 
exposed, quickened his consciousness of God's 

In an unusually short time he received, first, 
his bachelor's, then his master's, degree. His 
father was pathetically proud of him. He ceased 
to address him with the familiar "thou" of daily 


speech and substituted for it the "you" of 
formality. He saw near at hand the goal of his 
ambition for his boy, his graduation in the law. 
He bought for him a copy of the costly Corpus 
Juris, or "Body of the Law," and Martin re- 
turned to Erfurt to begin his final studies. 

But in these studies he did not long continue. 
He found them dull, dry, utterly unprofitable. 
His contempt for the profession he expressed 
many times in later life. " Jurists commonly dis- 
pute and discuss about words. They alter the 
facts and fail to go to the bottom of them that 
the truth may be discovered." It was not strange 
that the profession proved distasteful to one 
whose chief delight it was to go to the bottom 
of things that truth might be discovered! But 
Luther had a more serious charge to make 
against the lawyers: "They take the money of 
the poor, and with their tongue thresh out their 
pocket and their purse." 

Distaste for the work which was chosen for 
him for life proved to be the last straw on a load 
already heavy. Against his father's will, cruelly 
disappointing his father's hopes, to the horror 
of his companions who had no good opinion of 
the monastery, he announced that he was about 
to become a monk. Summoning his friends to 


feast and sing with him once more, he bade them 
farewell, and went the next morning to the mon- 
astery of the Augustinians to kneel at the feet 
of the prior and to beg for God's mercy upon 
his sinful soul. 



The friends whom Luther invited to his farewell 
supper were aghast at his announcement of the 
step he was about to take. In the short hours 
left them they tried every argument to dis- 
suade him. It was wicked for one so young and 
w^ith so promising a future to bury himself in a 
monastery. It is probable that Luther heard 
now, if he had never heard before, the scorn- 
ful appellations which scoffers applied to the 

More difficult to bear than the protests of his 
friends was the anger of his father, who, whatever 
might be his opinion of the monks, had meant 
his boy for a different career and to that end 
had made so many sacrifices. 

But stronger than paternal commands and 
the pleas and scoffing of his friends was the need 
of Martin's soul for peace. If the natural desires 
of a young man, who knew himself to possess a 
good mind and qualities of heart which made 
him sought after by many, caused him to cast 
any longing glances backward, his thoughts 


were soon turned once more to the assurance of 
salvation which he expected ere long to feel. 
The world was behind him, shut out forever by 
the closing of the monastery door, but soon the 
blessed light of heaven would beam upon him. 

The monaster}^ of the Augustinians was the 
best of the cloisters in Erfurt, and in selecting 
it Martin acted with characteristic good sense. 
Its monks were the preachers of Erfurt; they 
bore a good reputation and were esteemed for 
their good works among the needy. 

Luther rendered the most exact obedience to 
his superiors and to the rules of the order. His 
days and nights from dawn to dark and from 
dark to dawn were laid out for him; so many hours 
for labor, so many for prayer, so many — or so 
few! — for sleep. The chief object of the train- 
ing of the year of novitiate was the cultivation 
of obedience and humility. A monk must learn, 
first of all, that he had ceased to have a will of 
his own. Among the tasks which were assigned 
to the newcomer were the sweeping and cleaning 
of the convent, and, most humiliating of all, 
that of begging. The young graduate of the 
university, who had been so much admired and 
from whom so much had been expected, went 
through the streets of Erfurt with a sack on his 


shoulders, waiting humbly at doors which had 
hitherto opened to him as an honored guest. It is 
probable that he considered this task a small 
price to pay for the boon which he was seeking, 
and that he rejoiced in each pang which, con- 
quered, brought him nearer to his goal. To his 
university which had been so proud of him the 
humiliation was intolerable, and its officials be- 
sought that he might be sent to beg elsewhere 
than in the city streets. To his superiors within 
the convent his learning was at once a source 
of pride and a reason for additional discipline. 
He must be taught that his achievements were 
as nothing. 

' At any time during the first year he might 
have left the monastery without a stain upon 
his honor. It is certain that there was no lack 
of persuasion to such a course. The friends who 
had so entreated him, the father who thought of 
him with angry grief, all did their best to call him 
back before it was too late. But all was without 
avail. No peace had as yet visited his heart, 
but to turn back would make certain the eternal 
loss of his soul. In the autumn of 1506, he be- 
came a member of the Augustinian Order, and 
promised to live until death in poverty, obedi- 
ence, and chastity. 


In the monasteries there were many varieties 
of men and many varieties of occupation. The 
Church used for her purposes all the various 
talents of her sons. There were monks who 
swept and scrubbed and dug gardens ; there were 
those with musical talent who had in charge 
the elaborate and beautiful service; there were 
those whose gift for teaching was put to use in 
the monastery schools and in the universities; 
there were scholars who had for many years 
guarded and venerated learning which other- 
wise would have been lost; there were priests 
who admonished the people and administered 
the sacraments. 

Having trained the novice in humility and 
patience and having admitted him to full fellow- 
ship with their order, Luther's superiors now 
resolved upon his ordination to the priesthood, 
which took place in February, 1507. On May 2 
of the same year he celebrated his first mass. 

To this solemn yet joyful ceremony he invited 
his father and various friends. His own joy in 
the occasion was profound. "God, glorious and 
holy in all his works, has deigned to exalt me, 
wretched and unworthy sinner, and to call me 
into his sublime ministry only for his mercy's 
sake. I ought to be thankful for the glory of such 


divine goodness (as much as dust may be) and 
fulfill the duty laid upon me. Wherefore the 
fathers have set aside Sunday, May 2nd, for my 
first mass, God willing. That day I shall offici- 
ate before God for the first time. ..." 

Half mollified, his father brought him a gift. 
But he was not wholly reconciled. At the ban- 
quet which followed the mass, Martin described 
a vision which had finally led him to the monas- 
tery. "God grant," cried Hans, "that it was not 
some lying and devilish specter!" It was long 
before the father could entirely forgive or for- 
get that which he considered to be an offense 
against filial duty. 

Luther was now bound and sealed to the mon- 
astery. He occupied a small cell, seven feet by 
nine, from which a deeply embrasured window 
opened on the monastery graveyard. The fur- 
niture consisted of a pallet bed, a chair, and a 
table. Here in quiet and seclusion, relieved of 
the hard manual labor of his novitiate, he con- 
tinued the study of philosophy in which he had 
distinguished himself, and began the study of 
the theology which taught that God, having 
promised for Christ's sake to forgive sin, has 
made it possible for man by good works to merit 
salvation. His textbook was not the Bible, but 


the works of theologians and philosophers who 
had commented upon it. 

Now he began once more to look into his own 
soul. He had taken the great step, he had suf- 
fered the required discipline, he had offered him- 
self fully to God, and he might justly expect 
that the blessed change had been wrought and 
that he should find peace. 

Instead, alas, he seemed to see only more 
abysmal depths of misery and wickedness. His 
heart was more troubled than before; more 
ominous than ever the fearful question fronted 
his frightened eyes, "What must I do to be 
saved .'^" Of his mental anxiety during this 
period he spoke in later years, saying that the 
pains of hell could be no greater. 

With the most earnest zeal, he tried to apply 
to his own misery the answer given by the scho- 
lastic philosophy and theology which he was 
studying. A man could win God's grace by his 
works. He willed now to save himself by harsher 
penance and more ardent prayer. He secured a 
scourge and beat his poor body — already fear- 
fully emaciated by fasting — until he fainted. 
He went without food for days and without 
sleep for many nights, and he exposed his body 
to the cold, lying at night on the stone floor 


of his cell without covering. There his fellow 
monks found him senseless and almost lifeless 
and talked with uncomprehending admiration 
of his wonderful piety, until not only the clois- 
ter but the community regarded him with awe. 

But all his self-torture was vain; still his 
despair grew. Living in the unhealthy atmos- 
phere of the monastery apart from the whole- 
some distractions of the world, men invariably 
magnify the importance of those faults which 
they commit and imagine a hundred errors or, 
as Luther called them, "doll sins," of which they 
are not guilty. Luther's fear of God changed to 
hatred. Man could not avert the punishment 
which God had threatened nor could he love so 
arbitrary and unmerciful a Creator. 

Gradually, however, he found relief. He be- 
gan to read the Bible in obedience to the neg- 
lected rule of the Augustinians, and slowly there 
dawned upon his heart the first beams of com- 
ing day. Still at times clouds darkened the light, 
but the fearful tortures of the past oppressed 
him at longer and longer intervals. At his 
diligence in reading the Scriptures and at his 
finding comfort therein, his fellow monks were 

Older monks by their counsels aided him in 


his struggle. To them, Luther with his fearful 
depression seemed at times ahnost mad. An old 
confessor insisted to him that God was not angry 
with him, but that he was angry with God and 
that it was his duty to believe that God would 
forgive him. 

From no other human agency did he receive 
as valuabh^ help as from John Staupitz, a noble- 
man, the Vicar of the German provinces of the 
Augustinian Order, who loved him and who re- 
minded him constantly of the love of God for 
him. Staupitz was dean of the theological 
faculty of the University of Wittenberg, re- 
cently esta}>lished by Elector Frederick of Sax- 
ony, in which it was intended that the teachers 
should be Augustinian monks. When Staupitz 
recommended Luther to the position of instruc- 
tor in philosoi)hy, he accomphshed two objects, 
he withdrew the young priest from the unwhole- 
some contemphition of his imagined sins, and 
he provided for th(^ new university a gifted and 
enthusiastic teacher. Thither in 1508 went 

Wittenberg was a town of about three thou- 
sand inhabitants, situated in the flat, sandy 
country along the river Elbe. It was very dif- 
ferent from handsome Erfurt. Among the few 


fine buildings were the castle of the Elector of 
Saxony and the castle church set close together 
at one end of the town. In the center rose the 
tall towers of the great city church and at the 
other end stood the Augustinian monastery, or 
Black Cloister, so called from the black garb of 
the monks, and near it the single building of the 
university. The castle church was the reposi- 
tory for the five thousand relics of the saints 
gathered together by the pious Elector. Without 
doubt Luther looked with credulous reverence 
upon these objects. 

i The Elector Frederick, though he gave super- 
stitious veneration to the Church, was an edu- 
cated and intelligent man. JNIost important of 
all, he was foremost among the German rulers 
in resisting the absurd claims of the Pope. 

Luther continued his work at Wittenberg un- 
til the autumn of 1509. During this time he 
took his first theological degree, baccalaureus ad 
biblia, and gradually also a more important 
work was wrought upon hhn. He continued a 
diligent study of the Bible, and one day as he 
was reading in the tower of the Augustinian 
convent where he lived, he came upon a short 
sentence in the Epistle to the Romans, 'T/ie 
just shall live by faith.'' Now for Brother Martin 


was the world made over. In deep and constant 
meditation, he came finally to see that the Bible 
teaching was different from the theology which 
he had been taught. It was not by man's work, 
but by his faithy that he was saved. An extraor- 
dinary peace came to abide in his soul. It 
seemed to him that now at last he was a Chris- 
tian, a good Catholic. Here was the foundation 
stone of religion. 

In the autumn of 1509 Luther returned to 
Erfurt, where he remained for almost two years 
preparing by study and by the delivery of cer- 
tain prescribed lectures to begin the teaching 
of theology. During this period he was unex- 
pectedly given an opportunity for which every 
devout mediaeval yearned. 

There had arisen among the Augustinians a 
difference of opinion about the policy of the 
order, and a messenger was sent to Rome to lay 
the matter in dispute before the proper authori- 
ties. Luther was appointed to accompany the 
monk to whom the matter was entrusted. The 
journey was made on foot in pleasant October 
weather, the two monks walking sedately one 
behind the other and praying as they walked. 
They counted no weariness too great which 
brought them each evening a little nearer to that 


city which their hearts held in affectionate ven- 
eration. Here the blood of martyrs had been 
shed, here thousands of sacred relics lay yet 
hidden in the earth, here dwelt the Vicar of 

The journey consumed about two months. 
The travelers rested for the night at the con- 
vents of the Augustinian Order along the way, 
and each day their eyes opened more and more 
widely at the fruitfulness of the land and at 
the comfort and elegance in which the inhabit- 
ants lived. In Florence they visited the hos- 
pitals. It is probable that the eyes of the ten- 
der-hearted Luther, which passed by without 
remark many other objects of art, gazed with 
pleasure upon the sculptured Delia Robbia ba- 
bies on the walls of the Spedale degli Innocenti. 
Upon the care and neatness within the hospital 
he commented with astonishment. 

At sight of Rome he prostrated himself upon 
the ground, crying, "Hail, Holy Rome! Thrice 
holy art thou in whom the blood of the martyrs 
has been poured out!" Since he was merely the 
traveling companion of the monk who had the 
business of the Augustinians in hand, he was 
free to set out at once to visit the city. The 
architectural remains of antiquity interested him 


and he spoke of them frequently in later years, 
particularly of mighty ruins like the Coliseum 
and the Baths of Diocletian. 

Most diligently he visited the nimierous shrines, 
which were supposed to have virtue for the 
healing of sickness and the remitting of sins. 
What an opportunity for the pious German monk 
who in his own words "believed all that he 
heard!" He said mass ten times, amazing his 
Italian acquaintances by his solemnity and de- 
liberation, and he wished that his father and 
mother were already dead so that their stay in 
purgatory might be shortened by the doubly 
efficacious prayers which he could make in 

The account of his halt midway in the ascent 
of the Santa Scala with the words, "The just 
shall live by faith," is of somewhat doubtful au- 
thenticity, since it rests upon the word of his 
son who, hearing his father tell the story in his 
childhood, wrote it down many years later. 
Luther's own account of the credulous piety with 
which he regarded every stone of Rome makes 
unlikely any resistance to custom. Though he 
was disgusted and horrified by the levity and 
impurity of many of the Roman priests, his 
faith in the Church was unshaken. 


Soon after his return to Erfurt, Luther was 
again summoned to the University of Witten- 
berg, this time to become professor of theology. 
His friend Staupitz was anxious to retire from his 
position as dean of the theological faculty, and 
in response to his urging, Luther took in 1512 
the highest degree in theology, that of doctor of 
divinity, so that he might succeed him. Settled 
once more in the Black Cloister, he applied him- 
self with all his strength of mind and heart to 
his teaching. 

At last he was to do the work which he loved 
and for which he had longed; he was to lecture 
on the Bible. As earnestly as he had searched 
his own soul for its imperfections in the days of 
his despair, so now he searched the Bible in order 
that he might discover every element of saving 
truth which it contained. He continued his study 
of Hebrew so that he might read at first hand the 
Old Testament, and began the study of Greek so 
that he might similarly learn the New Testa- 
ment. His published lectures of this period, with 
their many allusions and quotations, show how 
wide was his reading. He studied with deep joy 
the writings of German mystics who insisted 
that a period of despair and anguish must pre- 
cede the rebirth of the soul. This had been his 


case exactly; surely now he was truly saved! A 
few years after he had begun to lecture there 
appeared a new Greek edition of the New Testa- 
ment with a Latin translation by Erasmus, the 
humanist of Rotterdam, learned, witty, and a 
most ardent advocate of freedom of thought. 
The effect of a study of Erasmus was at once 
visible in the exposition of the young lecturer. 

We have proof of the closeness and thorough- 
ness of his application in the books which he 
used. Worn, thumbed, every tiniest spot cov- 
ered with annotations, they enable the scholar 
to trace step by step his growing apprehension 
of Biblical teaching. That this teaching was dif- 
ferent from that of the Church, or that it should 
some day sever him from her, could not have oc- 
curred to him as the most remote of possibilities. 

He lectured during the first five years of his 
professorship upon the Psalms, the Epistle to 
the Romans, the Book of Judges, and the Epistle 
to the Galatians. Possessing great merit as com- 
mentaries upon the text of Scripture, these lec- 
tures were further marked by two qualities 
which were new to the theological classroom. In 
the first place, they were intensely practical. 
Luther drew his illustrations partly from his own 
heart, only recently torn with doubt and anguish 


and now entirely at peace, partly from the life 
about him, and partly from contemporary his- 
tory. His meaning could not be mistaken when 
it was so amply explained by events with which 
every one was acquainted or by the homely 
incidents of everyday life. His ability in this 
direction was like that of Lincoln, but his illus- 
trations were drawn from much wider and 
deeper sources. 

In the second place, his lectures proclaimed a 
new doctrine, the Pauline justification by faith. 
He declined no opportunity to attack the school- 
men and their cardinal principle of salvation by 
works. In the words of a contemporary: "After 
a long and dark night the light of a new doctrine 
seemed to dawn. He showed the distinction be- 
tween the Law and the Gospel, and refuted the 
then prevalent error that, by their own works, 
men merit the forgiveness of sins, and by their 
observance of discipline, are righteous before 
God, and, like the Baptist, pointing to the Lamb 
of God who taketh away the sin of the world, he 
declared that sins are remitted freely, on ac- 
count of the Son of God, and that this benefit 
is to be received by faith. Other portions of the 
Church's doctrine were made clear. These be- 
ginnings of still better things gave him great 


influence, especially since his life corresponded 
with his speech, and his words seemed to spring, 
not from his lips, but from his heart." 

Not only the scholastic theology, but the 
scholastic philosophy, was the object of sharp 
attack, so that presently, in Luther's words, 
** Aristotle tottered to a fall " in Wittenberg. He 
attacked the schoolmen, not only for their errors, 
but for their dullness — a charge which must 
forever appeal to youth. 

The personal attractiveness of the young 
teacher had probably not a little to do with the 
enthusiasm of the students. It was natural that 
they should flock to hear one so young and eager 
and interesting. Luther's youth, his fervor, his 
learning, his mellow voice, his deep, kind eyes, 
now melting into tenderness as he spoke of the 
love of God, now brightening into fire as he al- 
luded to those who would deny or ignore the 
power of His grace, all combined to win for him 
the affection and admiration of his students and 
his companions. His friend George Spalatin 
said of him, " I think so much of him as a most 
learned and upright man, and, what is extremely 
rare, one of such acumen in judging that I wish 
to be entirely his friend." To him Cliristopher 
Schuerl, a well-known scholar, wrote: "Honored 


Sir, and reverend Father, the Augustinian pro- 
fession, your splendid virtue and great fame have 
so made me your subject that I greatly desire to 
be your friend, and to be inscribed in the cat- 
alogue of your intimates. With our common 
parent and vicar I conversed as much as the 
business of each of us permitted, and during 
several days and a part of the night the subject 
of our talk was frequently your excellence, good- 
ness and learning." 

Presently Luther began to preach as well as 
to teach. At first he was timid, even terrified, 
but as he realized his own strength, he grew con- 
fident. His sermons had the same merits as his 
lectures; they were simple, direct, and practical. 
Many pious Germans found that he expressed 
that which they had long felt, but which they 
had neither the courage nor the skill to say. He 
condemned superstition and faith in the efficacy 
of fasts and pilgrimages, and he had even some- 
thing to say about the wickedness of an evil 
Pope. When he was invited to preach at a 
conference of the Augustinian Order, he selected 
as his theme not some scholastic question as had 
been the custom, but the evils of backbiting 
and slander in the monasteries. He reproved 
the students at Wittenberg for their unseemly 


behavior, thereby winning the devout thanks of 
the townspeople. He ventured even to remon- 
strate with the Elector for his faults. 

In May, 1515, Luther was made district vicar 
of his order and thereby his duties were greatly 
increased. To his friend John Lang he wrote a 
description of his days : " I am convent preacher, 
the reader at meals, am asked to deliver a ser- 
mon daily in the parish church, am district vicar 
(that is eleven times prior), business manager of 
our fish farm at Litzkau, attorney in our case 
versus the Herzbergers now pending at Torgau, 
lecturer on Saint Paul, assistant lecturer on the 
Psalter, beside having my correspondence, which, 
as I said, occupies most of my time. I seldom 
have leisure to discharge the canonical services, 
to say nothing of attending to my own tempta- 
tions with the world, the flesh, and the devil." 

But while the young monk labored for his 
Church, worn by her orisons and emaciated by 
her fasts, he had left, unknown to himself, the 
broad course established by her doctrine and 
practice. Whether the stream which he had 
entered should prove to be a true passageway to 
the great ocean of truth or merely a perilous bay 
where shoals should soon wreck his frail boat, 
time would tell. 



Among the errors of faith and practice to which 
the young Luther called the attention of his 
parish was that of the vending of those pardons 
or indulgences by which the sinner expected to 
secure in exchange for money a remission of his 
sins, not only on the earth, but in purgatory. So 
enormous a sum had this traffic brought into the 
treasury of Rome that its extension was author- 
ized in all portions of the Church. In its sup- 
port the theory was set forth that Christ and 
the saints by their excess of merit had estab- 
lished a great treasury upon which the Pope 
could draw for the benefit of mankind. Even to 
those who were already dead and in purgatory 
could this merit be applied. Hard-hearted, in- 
deed, must he be who would not give the small 
sum which would free from pain the soul of a 
beloved relative or friend! Foolish, indeed, was 
he who suffered contrition for sin when he might 
with so much less suffering be freed from guilt 
by the paying of a gulden ! 


Among the prelates of the Church there must 
have been many who disapproved of the traffic 
and who were not bUnd to the wicked misrepre- 
sentation of the vendors of indulgences, but the 
Church herself, far from correcting the abuse or 
setting straight the minds of the buyers, encour- 
aged its growth in every possible way. 

In 1514, Pope Leo X bestowed upon Prince 
Albert of Brandenburg three great bishoprics. 
According to canonical law Albert was not yet 
old enough to be a bishop. The uniting of three 
bishoprics under one head was also contrary to 
canon law. In return for these special privileges 
the Pope required of the young man a sum which 
would to-day have the value of about a million 
dollars. In order that Albert, who was now 
Archbishop of Magdeburg, administrator of 
the bishopric of Halberstadt, Archbishop and 
Elector of Mayence and Primate of Germany, 
might win back the enormous sum which he had 
paid for his honors, the Pope declared that in- 
dulgences would be sold for the benefit of the 
new St. Peter's Church in Rome, then in pro- 
cess of construction. A large share of the money 
from this sale was to belong to Albert to be 
transferred by him to the banking house which 
had loaned him the money with which to pay 


the Pope. Thus the poor people were to pay 
unknowingly for the unlawful ambitions of a 

The chief agent in Albert's territory was a 
monk of the Dommican Order, Tetzel by name, a 
powerful preacher who terrified his hearers with 
vivid accounts of the pains of purgatory and the 
guilt and cruelty of withholding the small sum 
which would relieve one's friend or save one's 
self from torture. 

Into the territory of Saxony Tetzel was not 
allowed to enter, since the electors declined to 
permit their subjects to help to pay the debt of 
Albert, with whose arrangements they were ac- 
quainted. But Tetzel pressed as near to the 
border as he dared, and to him went members 
of Luther's parish. 

Thereupon Luther prepared to combat what 
he considered to be an offense against common 
sense and religion. After preaching against the 
indulgence traffic, he offered for debate a set of 
theses or statements. This was a well-known 
method of opening a discussion ; Luther had him- 
self only recently offered ninety-seven theses 
against the foolishness of scholastic philosophy. 
Now, on October 31, 1517, the Feast of all 
Saints, he fastened to the wooden door of the 


castle church a new set of ninety-five theses 
against indulgences. The theses, written in 
Latin, were intended for his colleagues and not 
for the throngs of pious laymen who gathered 
upon that day to gain merit by viewing the five 
thousand relics collected by the Elector. 

The theses were simple and practical. In the 
first was expressed the central truth of Luther's 
still unformulated interpretation of Christ's 
teaching, that is that Christ required repentance 
and sorrow for sin and not penances. 

"1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in 
saying Penitentiam agite (do penance) meant 
that the whole life of the faithful should be 

The other theses explained and corrected vari- 
ous popular misconceptions. 

" 5. The Pope does not wish, nor is he able, 
'^to remit any penalty except what he or the 
Canon Law has imposed." 

"22. The greater part of the people will be de- 
ceived by this undistinguishing and pretentious 
promise of pardon which cannot be fulfilled." 

"28. It is certain that avarice is fostered by 
the money chinking in the chest, but to answer 
the prayers of the Church is in the power of God 


"36. Every true Christian, alive or dead, 
participates in all the goods of Christ and the 
Church without letters of pardon." 

" 43. Christians are to be taught that he who 
gives to the poor or lends to one in need does 
better than he who buys indulgences." 

"50. Christians are to be taught that if the 
Pope knew the exactions of the preachers of 
indulgences, he would rather have St. Peter's 
church in ashes than have it built with the flesh 
and bones of his sheep." 

"62. The true treasure of the Church is the 
holy gospel of the glory and grace of God." 

It is plainly to be seen that Luther wrote as a 
true and devoted son of the Church, protesting 
for the Pope as well as for himself against the 
sale of indulgences as it was carried on. If the 
Pope knew the evil works of his agents he would 
certainly condemn them. 

The same day as that on which Luther nailed 
the theses to the church door he wrote to Al- 
bert, ignorant of Albert's interest in the sale : — 

"Papal indulgences for the building of St. 
Peter's are hawked about under your illustrious 
sanction. I do not now accuse the sermons of 
the preachers who advertise them, for I have 
not seen the same, but I regret that the people 


have conceived about them the most erroneous 
ideas. Forsooth, these unhappy souls believe 
that if they buy letters of pardon they are sure 
of their salvation; likewise that souls fly out 
of purgatory as soon as money is cast into the 
chest; in short, that the grace conferred is so 
great that there is no sin whatever which can- 
not be absolved thereby. . . . They also believe 
that indulgences free them from all penalty and 

"My God! Thus are the souls committed, 
Father, to your charge, instructed unto death, 
for which you have a fearful and growing reck- 
oning to pay. . . . 

" What else could I do, excellent Bishop and 
illustrious Prince, except pray your Reverence 
for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ to take away 
your instructions to the Commissioners alto- 
gether and impose some other form of preaching 
on the proclaimers of pardons, lest perchance 
some one should at length arise and confute 
them and their instructions publicly, to the 
great blame of your Highness. This I vehemently 
deprecate, yet I fear it may happen unless the 
grievance is quickly redressed." 

In the mind of the Archbishop no regret was 
aroused, but instead violent anger, which in- 


creased as he saw the sale of his indulgences 
begin to lessen. He wrote at once to Rome and 
sent with his complaint a copy of Luther's 
theses against indulgences and a copy of the 
theses against scholastic philosophy. 

To Luther's amazement his hastily written 
statements attained at once an enormous popu- 
larity. Once more he had put into clear lan- 
guage the thoughts of thousands. The human- 
ists welcomed the theses as a blow against the 
domination of the Church. One of them, the 
painter, Albert Durer, sent Luther one of his 
wood-cuts to show his admiration and approval. 
The minor princes welcomed them because they 
were jealous of the power of the Church. Most 
popular of all were they among the "common 
men" whose scant and hard-earned money was 
so often taken from them. Without Luther's 
knowledge the theses were printed at Nurem- 
berg in Latin and German, and in a few weeks 
were not only circulated through the whole of 
Germany, but passed far beyond the borders. 

By the Pope the theses were received neither 
with approval nor with alarm. It would be a 
simple matter to silence this clever but foolish 
monk who would surely not risk all his future 
upon a quarrel with his superiors. Many little 


fires had been lighted, but they had always been 
quenched. Sometimes those who lighted them 
had been themselves burned in the flames they 
kindled. The hard mouth of worldly Leo must 
have twitched with amusement as he read Lu- 
ther's statement of the papal attitude toward 
indulgences. He ordered the General of the Au- 
gustinians, Gabriel della Volta, to command 
Luther to recant, and Volta in turn passed the 
command on to Dr. Staupitz, Luther's imme- 
diate superior and his beloved friend. 

In April and May, 1518, there was held at 
Heidelberg a conference of the Augustinians 
of the province of Saxony, at which Luther ap- 
peared. Resigning his office of district vicar in 
order to save embarrassment to his order, he 
not only declined to withdraw any of his state- 
ments, but defended them in a sermon based 
upon the principles which underlay the theses. 
His fellow monks listened to him with courtesy, 
but not without astonishment. To his exposition 
of his doctrines no one seemed able to oppose any 
valid arguments. 

Hearing that Volta had failed to secure a re- 
cantation, and being constantly urged by the 
Dominican Order to which the indulgence- 
vendor Tetzel belonged, the Pope ordered 


action to be taken against Luther for "suspi- 
cion of heresy." Luther was commanded to 
appear in Rome within sixty days. With the 
order there was deHvered to him a statement of 
the rights of the Church, which declared that 
whoever questioned an act of the Church was a 

Upon his return from Heidelberg, Luther 
began the preparation of a careful defense and 
amplification of his theses. Dedicating this com- 
position, which he called " Resolutions," to the 
Pope, he made humble submission, but de- 
fended and indeed extended all the statements 
which he had made. 

When his friends warned him of the danger of 
his course, he answered: "He who is poor fears 
nothing and can lose nothing. Property I neither 
have nor desire. If I have had fame and honour, 
he who now loses them loses them forever. If, 
then, by force or plots, as God wills, they take 
away the one thing that is left, my poor, frail 
body, already worn out with incessant troubles, 
they will make me poorer for perhaps one or two 
hours of this life! Enough for me is it to have 
my precious Redeemer and Advocate, my Lord 
Jesus Christ, to whom I will sing as long as I 
have being. If any one be unwilling to sing with 


me, what is that to me? Let him howl to himself 
if he so prefer!" 

Before Luther could decide whether to obey 
or to refuse, the attitude of Rome grew sud- 
denly more threatening. Cardinal Cajetan, the 
agent of the Pope in Germany, saw plainly 
that the fire lit by the presumptuous monk was 
not a small blaze to be easily extinguished, but 
that it had already spread far and wide over 
Germany. To his alarm was added rage when 
he heard that Luther had published a sermon 
on the ban in which he compared that hitherto 
useful weapon of Rome to a bat, which flew 
about in an annoying fashion, but did no harm. 
Immediately Luther ceased to be a suspected 
heretic and became a notorious heretic. As such 
he was summoned at once to meet the Cardinal 
at Augsburg. If he did not recant, he was to be 
sent thence bound to Rome. If it was impos- 
sible to secure him, he and his followers were to 
be put promptly under that ban of which he 
thought so lightly. 

Now, if not before, must Luther have realized 
that his boat was turned out of the main current 
of the stream. Solemn thoughts must have come 
to his mind of the fate of those who had dared 
to call in question not even doctrines of the 


Church, but merely her practices. But he did 
not falter. Again and again in his spoken and 
written word we have testimony to the light 
esteem in which he held his own life in compari- 
son with truth. " Let Christ live," said he; " let 
Martin die." Sure of his position and of him- 
self he set out for Augsburg. He was assured 
of a safe-conduct from the Emperor Maximilian, 
without w^hich his own Elector Frederick would 
not let him proceed, and he was accompanied by 
friends, among them Dr. Staupitz. But that 
neither a safe-conduct nor the support of friends 
had saved Huss from the stake, he could not 
have forgotten. 

On October 12, Luther had the first of three 
interviews with the Cardinal. At first com- 
plimenting and flattering, then storming and 
commanding, and always refusing to listen to 
Luther, Cajetan made clear that Rome would 
hear to nothing but a complete recantation. 
When Luther asked what errors he was expected 
to recant, Cajetan replied that there were two: 
first, Luther had asserted in support of his 
theses the sole authority of the Scriptures in 
matters of faith; and, second, he had taught 
in his Resolutions that the sacraments are of 
value only to those who believe the promise at- 


tached to them. The demands of the Cardinal 
were reinforced by shouts. "At last," confessed 
Luther, "I began to shout also." The unreason- 
ableness of the legate fortified Luther in his 
intention to do nothing against his conscience. 
Finally, seeing that nothing was being accom- 
plished, he left Augsburg secretly and returned 
to Wittenberg. When Cajetan demanded; that 
the Elector Frederick send him to Rome, Fred- 
erick refused to comply. 

Before leaving Augsburg, Luther prepared an 
"Appeal from the Pope-badly-informed to the 
Pope-better-informed," in which he asked that 
his case be heard from the beginning before un- 
prejudiced judges. The Pope's reply was not 
directed to Luther by name, nor did it make 
any allusion to his appeal. It took shape in a 
"bull " or decree, in which Luther's theories were 
condemned, and the issue at stake was made 
clear. If Luther persisted in the doctrines of his 
theses he opposed the Pope and the Church, to 
which he had hitherto declared himself loyal. 

Upon the failure of Cajetan to arrest the here- 
tic, the Pope sent a new ambassador to Ger- 
many, Charles von Miltitz. For his purpose 
Miltitz was armed, not only with a ban against 
Luther and an interdict against all Saxony, but 


with the "anointed golden rose," a gift which 
carried with it great honor by which he was to 
win to his side the Elector Frederick, who had 
long coveted it. Miltitz was very different in 
temper from Volta, Cajetan, and the others 
who had hitherto been appointed to deal with 
the troublesome Luther. Hoping to adjust all 
things amicably, he arranged what seemed to 
him to be a compromise and wrote in glowing 
terms to the Pope of his success. That Luther 
yielded nothing is clear from his letter to the 
Elector : — 

*' Let me humbly inform your Grace that 
Charles von Miltitz and I have at last come to 
an agreement, and concluded our negotiations 
with two articles. 

" 1. Both sides shall be inhibited from preach- 
ing, writing, and acting further in the matter. 

"2. Miltitz will write to the Pope at once, 
informing him how things stand, and asking 
him to recommend the matter to some learned 
bishop, who will hear me and point out the 
errors I am to recant. For when I have learned 
my mistakes, I will gladly withdraw them, and 
do nothing to impair the honor and power of the 
Roman Church." 

Before the Pope could consider the failure of 


his legate to accomplish his errand, the Emperor 
Maximilian died, and to the election of his suc- 
cessor the attention of Rome was devoted for 
many months. On account of the political situ- 
ation it was inexpedient to anger the Elector 
Frederick, who had wide influence and who him- 
self hoped for the imperial crown. The diflScult 
conscience of the German monk was for four- 
teen months forgotten. 

During the summer months of 1518 there had 
come to the University of Wittenberg a new 
teacher, Philip Melanchthon, a grand-nephew of 
the humanist Reuchlin. He had taken the de- 
gree of Master of Arts at seventeen and was 
still under twenty-one. Only a few days after 
he arrived, Luther wrote of him to his friend 
Spalatin the first tribute of an affection which 
lasted throughout life : — 

*' Doubt not that we have done all and shall 
do all you recommend about Philip Melanch- 
thon. He delivered an oration the fourth day 
after he came, in the purest and most learned 
style, by which he won the thanks and admira- 
tion of all, so that you need not worry about 
commending him to us. We quickly abandoned 
the opinion we formed from his small stature 
and homeliness, and now rejoice and wonder at 


his real worth, and thank our most illustrious 
Elector and your good offices, too, for giving 
him to us. . . . While Philip is alive, I desire no 
other Greek teacher." 

The two men were exactly opposite in tempera- 
ment. Melanchthon was a scholar, Luther a war- 
rior. The difference in temper, however, made 
the one a complement rather than an antago- 
nist of the other. More and more the young clas- 
sicist turned his attention to the theological for- 
mulation of Luther's doctrines. There between 
them harmony of thought was complete. Though 
each was aware of the imperfections of the other, 
each held the gifts and achievement of his friend 
to be greater than his own. Luther was never 
weary of expressing his satisfaction in the society 
of his young colleague and his high opinion of 
his character and work. 

**I am rough, boisterous, stormy, and alto- 
gether warlike. I am born to fight against in- 
numerable monsters and devils. I must remove 
stumps and stones, cut away thistles and thorns 
and clear the wild forests; but Master Philip 
comes along softly and gently, sowing and water- 
ing with joy, according to the gifts which God 
has abundantly bestowed upon him." 

The compact between Luther and Von Mil- 


titz, that both parties to the argument should 
keep silence, was soon broken. John Eck of In- 
golstadt, once a friend of Luther, had attacked 
his ninety-five theses in a pamphlet which he 
called *' Obelisks," and had been answered by 
Luther in a pamphlet called ''Asterisks." The 
quarrel was then taken up by a Wittenberg pro- 
fessor, Carlstadt by name, who prepared a set 
of theses on free will and the authorit}^ of the 
Scriptures, which Eck promptly answered. Now 
Luther took a hand once more by offering twelve 
propositions, in one of which he assailed the claim 
of the Roman Church to be superior to all other 
churches. Promptly Eck challenged both Carl- 
stadt and Luther to a debate. 

After a good deal of negotiation, Leipsic was 
selected for the scene of the debate. At once, 
in the midst of his lecturing, preaching, and 
writing, Luther set diligently to work to prepare 
himself by a. thorough study of church history 
to meet his opponent. In the course of his inves- 
tigation he came to a conclusion which amazed 
and disturbed him. The claim of Rome to su- 
premacy was not made by any ancient right, 
for only within four hundred years had she at- 
tained her tyrannous power. In the decretals in 
which this power was defined. Scripture texts 


which referred to '* spiritual food and faith" were 
twisted to refer to temporal power. The words in 
which he announced his conclusion to his friend 
Spalatin, mark a new stage in his progress. 

**I count the papal power as a thing indif- 
ferent," said he, *'like wealth or health or other 
temporal goods, which are insisted on as if by the 
command of God, though He always teaches 
that they should be despised. How can I hear 
with equanimity this perverse interpretation of 
God's word and that wrong opinion, even if I 
allow the power of the Roman Church as a thing 

Luther made, moreover, another astonishing 
discovery. He learned that the teachings of John 
Huss, which had been condemned by the Council 
of Constance, were in entire accord with the 
gospel and the fathers. 

The debate was held in the hall of the castle 
of Pleissenburg before a large audience. Eck, as 
the loyal and ardent supporter of the Church, 
was treated with the highest honor; Luther and 
Carlstadt and their friends, as the impudent 
questioners of her power, with rudeness. Dur- 
ing the first week Carlstadt and Eck debated 
on free will; during the second week Luther 
and Eck on the primacy of the Pope and the 


authority of a council. During the third week 
Luther and Eck discussed the orthodox doc- 
trines of penance, purgatory, indulgences, and 
the power of the priest to absolve. 

Eye-witnesses have described the handsome 
hall which was elaborately decorated for the 
occasion, the distinguished audience and the 
eager disputants — Eck, heavy in figure and 
countenance; Carlstadt, small, swarthy, and 
fiery; Luther, of medium height, emaciated, 
clear-voiced, and eloquent. Luther carried with 
him on one occasion a bouquet of flowers with 
whose odor he refreshed himself so often that an 
onlooker suggested that he held thereby com- 
munion with the devil. 

The effect of the Leipsic debate was not 
limited to Luther himself. It was now neces- 
sary for his friends to take their choice between 
his friendship and doctrines and the protection 
and doctrines of the Church. Among those for 
whom his position was too advanced was his 
loved Staupitz, who became more and more alien- 
ated as the inevitable conclusion approached. 
The widening breach caused Luther great dis- 
tress, but neither his own danger nor separation 
from his friends altered his convictions. 

It was inevitable that Rome should ere long 


take notice of the insolence of her son. The elec- 
tion of the new Emperor was held on June 28, 

1519, at which time Charles of Spain, the grand- 
son of Maximilian, was chosen. Now it was no 
longer necessary to conciliate the Elector Fred- 
erick, and at once he was commanded to give 
Luther up. Again he refused. iVfter Eck had 
come to Rome with a first-hand account of the 
black heresy of his opponent, the bull against 
Luther was prepared and signed on June 15, 

1520. It was called "Exsurge Domine," from 
the jSrst words of the opening sentence, "Arise, 
Lord, plead thine own cause, arise and protect 
the vineyard thou gavest Peter from the wild 
beast who is devouring it." The wild beast was 
to have sixty days to recant; if he remained 
stubborn, he would be declared a "stiff-necked, 
notorious, damned heretic" and would be ex- 



The Pope's bull, which was signed in June, was 
not published in Germany until September, and 
its sixty days of grace did not expire until No- 
vember 28. In the mean time Luther had taken 
counsel with himself, and with a clear and dis- 
cerning eye had scrutinized more deeply and 
widely the doctrines and practices of the Church. 
As the fruit of his research and meditation he 
published in August, October, and November 
three works: "An Address to the Christian No- 
bility of the German Nation on the Improve- 
ment of the Christian Estate"; "An Address on 
the Babylonian Captivity of the Church"; and 
"An Address on the Freedom of a Christian 

These works have been called the "Primary 
Works" of the Reformation. Multiplied by the 
new printing-press, spread into the uttermost 
corner of Germany as well as far beyond its 
boundaries, they made at once a profound im- 
pression. Simple, plain, earnest, they revealed 


the whole man, giving testimony to the deep 
spiritual experiences through which he had 
passed and eloquently expressing his passion for 
the welfare of Christ's Church. 

The "Address to the Nobility of the German 
Nation" was written in German, the common 
language of those for whom it was intended. It 
demanded of the people that they should from 
patriotic motives set themselves to the reforming 
of the Church. With the most profound solem- 
nity and earnestness Luther announced in the 
beginning, in the words of Ecclesiastes, that the 
time for silence was past, the time to speak at 
hand. After expressing his consciousness of his 
own weakness and his reliance upon God, he 
described three walls which the Roman Church 
had built about itself so that reform was im- 
possible. First, when pressed by the temporal 
power, it maintained that the temporal power 
had no jurisdiction over it. Second, when charged 
with violating the Scriptures, it objected that 
no one might interpret the Scriptures but the 
Pope. Third, when threatened with a council, 
it asserted that no one might call a council but 
the Pope. 

One by one Luther attacked these walls. In 
opposition to the first he made a statement so 


radical that the nation might well gasp at hear- 
ing it. "All Christians," said he, "are truly of 
the Christian estate, and there is no difference 
among them, save of office alone. . . . Between 
laymen and priests, princes and bishops, or as 
they call it between spiritual and temporal per- 
sons, the only real difference is one of office and 
function, and not of estate. . . . Christ's body 
is not double or two-fold, one temporal, the 
other spiritual. He is one head and he has one 
body. ... A cobbler, a smith, a peasant, every 
man has the office and function of his calling, 
and yet all alike are consecrated priests and 
bishops, and every man in his office must be use- 
ful and beneficial to the rest." To the officials 
of the Church who held themselves so high above 
the rest of mankind the words must have been 
almost blasphemous. To others who had long 
deplored in thought or word the unchristian ar- 
rogance of the Church, they seemed to have the 
authority of the Scriptures themselves. 

Since, said Luther, the so-called temporal 
power was just as valuable as the spiritual 
power, and equal to it and not beneath it in rank, 
it must do its duty "throughout the whole 
Christian body: whether it strikes popes, bish- 
ops, priests, monks, or nuns." 


The claim that the Pope only could interpret 
the Scriptures Luther denied without great 
elaboration, since he considered this wall totter- 
ing and weak. The Pope had often erred. It 
might even come to pass "that the Pope and his 
followers are not true Christians, and not being 
taught by God have no true understanding, 
whereas a common man may have true under- 
standing." Moreover, "We are all priests, and 
have all one faith, one gospel, one sacrament; 
how then should we have not the power of dis- 
cerning and judging what is right and wrong in 
matters of faith.^^" 

As for the third wall, neither the Scriptures 
nor the early history of the Church gave the 
Pope alone the right to call a council. Christ 
commands: "Moreover, if thy brother shall 
trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault 
between him and thee alone: if he shall hear 
thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he 
will not hear thee, then take with thee one or 
two more, that in the mouth of two or three 
witnesses every word may be established. And 
if he shall neglect to hear the church, let him be 
unto thee as a heathen and publican. ..." The 
council of the apostles was not called by St. 
Peter, but by the apostles and all the elders. 


Many councils have been called by Emperors. 
It was the duty of the temporal power to reform 
the Church, as it would be the duty of every 
citizen to give warning and aid if a fire should 
break out. ^ Would it not be most unnatural, if 
a fire were to break out in a city, and every one 
were to let it burn on and on, whatever might 
be burnt, simply because they had not the 
mayor's authority, or perhaps because the fire 
broke out at the mayor's house ? How much 
more should this be done in the spiritual city of 
Christ, if a fire of offense break out, either at 
the Pope's government or wherever it may!" 

Having demolished the three walls, Luther 
enumerated some of the evils which a council 
should consider. Among them were the life of 
the Pope who lived in worldly pomp such as no 
king or emperor could equal, and the greed of 
the cardinals to whom valuable livings were as- 
signed while the people were ruined by taxation. 
With a decrease in the number of cardinals should 
come a cutting-off of the thousands of so-called 
papal servants who lived upon the revenues 
gathered from the poor. Surely it is the duty of 
the Christian princes of the German nation to 
protect their people from the "ravenous wolves 
in sheep's clothing!" 


These matters were not, Luther emphatically 
declared, evils of which he alone knew and com- 
plained; they were notorious. "Even at Rome 
they are forced to own that it is more terrible 
and worse than one can say." 

In conclusion Luther offered twenty-seven 
articles respecting the abolishing of these and 
other evils. The German princes, nobles, and 
cities should refuse to pay the tributes demanded 
by Rome, they should refuse to allow Rome to 
administer their ecclesiastical affairs. "If a 
courtling came from Rome, he should receive 
the strict command to withdraw, or to leap into 
the Rhine, or whatever river be nearest, and to 
administer a cold bath to the interdict, seal and 
letters and all." Thus those at Rome would 
learn that the Germans were not always what 
they called them in scorn, "drunken fools." No 
temporal matters might be decided at Rome and 
the "excessive, over-presumptuous, and most 
wicked claims of the Pope, which required the 
bishops to swear oaths of fealty, the Emperor to 
kiss the Pope's feet, or to pay any sort of hom- 
age, must be firmly denied." "The Pope," said 
Luther, "is not the Vicar of Christ in heaven, 
but only of Christ upon earth. For Christ in 
heaven, in the form of a ruler, requires no vicar, 


but there sits, sees, does, knows, and commands 
all things. But He requires the Pope — in the 
form of a servant — to represent Him as He 
walked upon earth, working, preaching, suffer- 
ing, and dying." In contrast with the lowliness 
of Christ, how dreadful the pomp of him who 
claims to be his Vicar and who compels men to 
kiss his feet! 

Pilgrimages to Rome, which led to dissipa- 
tion and the neglect of duties at home, should 
be abolished; so also should the mendicant mon- 
asteries wherein men "grievously labor and tor- 
ment themselves by their own rules and laws, 
and yet never arrive at a true understanding of 
a spiritual and good life." Monasteries should 
be schools which men might leave w^hen they 
chose. The parish priest who must live among 
his people should be allowed to marry in honor 
instead of living in dishonor as many did. The 
number of saints' days, which were inducements 
to idleness and wastefulness, should be dimin- 
ished, fasts should be optional, and every khid of 
food should be made free. 

It was now high time to take up the caase of 
the Bohemians of whom John Huss was burned. 
Whether or not Huss was wrong, his burning 
was a monstrous crime, and the Hussites should 


not be compelled to give approval to it and 
should be allowed to unite once more with the 
Church. The universities should be reformed, 
and above all subjects in the universities and in 
lower schools, should the Scriptures be taught. 

"The Address to the Nobility of the German 
Nation" is a powerful appeal to patriotism and 
as such is one of the treasures of the nation. But 
it is more than a merely local document ; it is one 
of the immortal documents of human freedom. 

Having breathed his first loud trumpet blast, 
Luther followed it speedily with a second. The 
"Address on the Babylonian Captivity of the 
Church " was written in Latin, since it was in- 
tended primarily for the clergy and other learned 
men. Its subject was the sacramental system 
of the Roman Church and its errors and evils. 
Regretting his past toleration, stating that his 
earlier writings might as well be burned since 
they did not deal radically enough with the evils 
of the Church, Luther announced now his real 

The Roman Church claimed seven sacraments, 
— baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, penance, 
extreme unction, matrimony, and orders. Orig- 
inally the word sacr amentum meant merely a 
sacred or holy thing; ultimately the term was 


applied to a rite of the Church to which a spirit- 
ual meaning adheres. For the administration of 
these sacraments, which were bound up with 
the most ordinary events of life, the priests alone 
had power, and upon their administration the 
salvation of man was supposed to depend. By 
withholding them the Church could bring the 
most stubborn of its sons to submission; by ex- 
acting pay for them she could draw from the 
poorest of the laity a heavy tribute. 

Luther struck at the roots of the upas tree 
which had spread its benumbing shade over 
Christendom by attacking the whole sacramental 
system. The sacraments, he declared, were not 
supernatural rites upon which man's salvation 
depended ; they were merely the outward sign of 
God's promise. Only when a man had faith in 
the promises of God were they of value to him, 
and if he had this real faith he did not need them. 

There were, moreover, only three sacraments, 
— the eucharist, baptism, and penance. Since 
penance or repentance was merely return to 
baptism, there were in reality but two. Con- 
firmation was merely a rite of the Church; mat- 
rimony, which had existed since the beginning 
of the world and existed now outside the Church, 
was in no sense a sacrament. Orders, or the 


laying-on of hands at the ordination of a priest, 
was, like confirmation, merely a rite of the 
Church to which no divine promise was attached. 
For the anointing of the sick there was no divine 
authority. The Apostle James advised anoint- 
ing so that the sick might recover, not to pre- 
pare them for death, as the Church now taught. 
The third of the Primary Works, *'0n the 
Liberty of a Christian Man," was written both 
in Latin and German, so that it might be read 
by both the learned and the unlearned. In this 
little pamphlet Luther reached to the height and 
depth of spiritual things and to the height of 
noble and clear expression. It is one of the 
classics, not only of religious literature, but of all 
literature. Luther began by laying down two 
statements, "A Christian man is the most free 
lord of all and subject to none," and "A Chris- 
tian man is the most dutiful servant to all and 
subject to every one." The soul can do without 
everything but the word of God — thus Luther 
explained his first thesis — having the word of 
God, it is rich and wants for nothing. A right 
faith in Christ is an incomparable treasure, carry- 
ing with it universal salvation. The repentant 
and believing soul, by the pledge of its faith 
in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of 


death, safe from hell, and endowed with the 
eternal righteousness of Christ. He becomes a 
king, exalted above all things, not in the sense of 
corporeal power as was the mad belief of certain 
ecclesiastics, but in a spiritual empire, a more 
lofty and eminent dignity. 

But the Christian man, full of faith and as- 
sured of salvation, has still before him his earthly 
life, wherein he must do good works, not as 
penance in order to gain salvation, which is al- 
ready his by reason of his faith in God, but first, 
so that his body may be purified and be made a 
fit vessel to hold the new man which he has be- 
come. The custom of injuring the body and the 
brain in mortification is enormous folly. A sec- 
ond sort of good work which the Christian man 
will do is that of charity and mercy; herein does 
he make himself a servant to all. 

Prefacing the address was a letter to the Pope. 
Luther declared that he said nothing against the 
Pope; he denounced only the evil of the Pope's 
ministers, among whom he sat "like a lamb 
among wolves." " Leo," said Luther, " is worthy 
of a better age; let him be warned of those 
sirens who would make him out a god!" 

Early in December Luther made solemn and 
spectacular answer to the bull of warning and 


to the many other threats which were preparing 
against him. When the time given him to re- 
cant had expired, when his condemned books 
had been burned by a papal legate at Louvain 
and Liege, Luther also lit a fire. Outside the 
walls of Wittenberg, he burned a copy of the 
bull, together with a copy of the canon law 
which set forth the supremacy of the Roman 
See and the power of the Pope. The notice of 
his action w^as prepared by his friend Melanch- 
thon. '*Let whosoever adheres to the truth 
of the Gospel be present at nine o'clock at the 
Church of the Holy Cross outside the walls, 
where the impious books of papal decrees and 
scholastic theology will be burnt according to 
ancient and apostolic usage. . . . Come, pious 
and zealous youth, to this pious and religious 
spectacle, for perchance now is the time when 
the Antichrist must be revealed!" As the fire 
burned, Luther apostrophized the Pope: '* Be- 
cause thou hast brought down the truth of God, 
He also brings thee down unto the fire this 

The excommunication threatened by the 
Pope's bull was somewhat delayed. The docu- 
ment conveying the "holy curse" was drawn 
up in January, but was of so violent a character 


and included with Luther in its condemnation so 
many German patriots, among them the Elector 
himself, that its author was persuaded to revise 
it. While it was being modified, Luther was 
summoned to meet his Emperor at Worms. 
The *' single flea," as he had called himself, was 
now to address the most powerful of earthly 
kings face to face, a possibility of which he had 
not dreamed. 

The Diet of Worms was the first conference 
of the new Emperor with his German subjects. 
Various questions relating to the welfare of the 
kingdom were to be considered, among them 
the religious difficulty which had been the source 
of so much agitation. Toward this question and 
toward the originator of it the attitude of the 
Emperor was not yet known. Luther and his 
friends still hoped that his case might be heard 
before an impartial tribunal. Rome, on the 
other hand, considered that there was no rea- 
son for further discussion; Luther was a here- 
tic already condemned by the Church and upon 
him should fall also the condemnation of the 
Emperor. The outcome depended, not upon 
the activities of the papal legates or upon the 
ability of Luther's friends to support him, but 
upon the decision of Charles. 


Upon the head of Charles, who was but 
twenty-one years old, rested mighty crowns of 
actual sovereignty as well as lighter symbols 
of merely honorary rule. Already by inherit- 
ance ruler of Austria, Spain, Naples, and Bur- 
gundy, his election had made him also Em- 
peror of Germany. Those who hoped for the 
success of Luther's cause or merely for the safety 
of his life might point to the German descent 
of Charles and to the necessity under which he 
was, on account of dangers within and without 
his wide realm, of treating with consideration 
his German subjects. Luther himself cherished 
high hopes of reform under the new Emperor, 
as did also all those who longed for the unity and 
independence of the German nation. Luther's 
enemies, on the other hand, remembered that 
in the first place the young Charles was a de- 
vout son of the Church, and that, in the second, 
he would have small sympathy with the theo- 
logical or patriotic aims of the Germans, of whose 
language and spirit he was wholly ignorant. 

For some weeks before he was actually sum- 
moned, Luther had been informed by his friends 
at the Diet that it was possible, indeed increas- 
ingly probable, that he would be required to ap- 
pear, not to present his doctrines, but simply to 


recant. When they asked him what he would do 
in such a case, he answered in true Lutheran 
fashion: "If I am summoned, I will go if I pos- 
sibly can: I will go ill if I cannot go well. For it 
is not right to doubt if I am summoned by the 
Emperor, I am summoned by the Lord. He lives 
and reigns who saved the three Hebrew children 
in the furnace of the king of Babylon. If he does 
not wish to save me, my life is a little thing com- 
pared to that of Christ, who was slain in the most 
shameful way, to the scandal of all and the ruin 
of many. Here is no place to weigh ruin and 
safety; rather we should take care not to aban- 
don the gospel, which we have begun to preach, 
to be mocked by the wicked, lest we give cause 
to our enemies of boasting that we dare not con- 
fess that we teach and shed our blood for it. . . . 
You may expect me to do anything but flee or 
recant: I will not flee, much less will I recant." 
When the summons came, together with a 
promise of safe-conduct, Luther set out, travel- 
ing in a wagon drawn by two horses which had 
been furnished by the town of Wittenberg and 
with money from the university to cover his 
expenses. In the reception which was tendered 
him on his journey he might well have forgotten, 
for a while at least, the danger into which he 


was about to venture. The common people 
blessed him as he went even though the Pope's 
ban was posted all along the way. In the words 
of the papal legate, "Nine tenths of the Ger- 
mans shout, *Long live Luther,' and the other 
tenth, *Down with Rome.'" On April 16 he ar- 
rived at Worms, where the whole city crowded 
to greet him or to stare. 

Worms was at this time an important and 
beautiful city. Above the steep-roofed houses 
towered the great Cathedral of St. Peter and 
St. Paul, a visible symbol of the ancient might 
of the Church. Near by newer edifices testified 
to its continued power and prosperity. Hither 
came often the Imperial Court, so that the city 
was called the "Mother of Diets," and here be- 
fore the time of Luther many important ques- 
tions had been decided. 

Never, however, had the city been the scene 
of so momentous a conference as that which 
was now in session. The assembly was presided 
over by the young Emperor; its members were 
great princes of spiritual and temporal states 
and representatives of the powerful free cities 
of Germany. Beside them, there had come to 
Worms all those of many nations — Germans, 
Spaniards, Nethcrlanders, Italians — who had 


business with the Imperial Court or who served 

On the afternoon of April 17, 1521, Luther 
was called before the Diet. As he entered he 
saw for the first time his Emperor, panoplied 
with gold and surrounded by princes and car- 
dinals. Crowding the hall, peering in through 
doors and windows, pressed a throng of men, 
some regarding Luther with curious horror, 
others with frightened admiration. 

Luther was informed first of all that he must 
merely answer the questions put to him and 
say no more. Pointing to a pile of books on the 
table, an ofl5cial asked whether they were his 
and whether he wished to recant any part of 
them. Luther made a wise answer: — 

** First, the books are mine, I deny none of 
them. The second question, whether I will re- 
assert all or recant what is said to have been 
written without warrant of Scripture, concerns 
faith and the salvation of souls and the Divine 
Word, than which nothing is greater in heaven 
or on earth, and which we all ought to reverence; 
therefore it would be rash and dangerous to say 
anything without due consideration, since I 
might say more than the thing demands or less 
than the truth, either of which would bring me 


in danger of the sentence of Christ, 'Whosoever 
shall deny me before men, him will I also deny 
before my Father which is in Heaven.' Where- 
fore I humbly beg Your Imperial Majesty to 
grant me time for deliberation, that I may 
answer without injury to the Divine Word or 
peril to my soul." 

Contrary to the desire of his opponents, he 
was granted until the next day to deliberate and 
to prepare his answer. It was not strange that he 
did not sleep that night. Occupied with grave 
thoughts, he kept vigil. 

When he appeared at the Diet the next after- 
noon he was reproached with not having had a 
reply ready the day before and was commanded 
to delay no longer to give his answer. At once 
he responded, first in German and then in Latin. 
While he spoke night fell, and the flaring lamps 
cast dark shadows into the corners of the hall, 
deepened the cardinals' robes into crimson, 
dulled the yellow canopy of Charles's throne, and 
made the white face of the monk whiter. He 
acknowledged that the books were his, and di- 
vided them into three classes, each of which he 

'*In some I have treated piety, faith, and 
morals so simply and evangelically that my ad- 


versaries themselves are forced to confess that 
these books are useful, innocent, and worthy 
to be read by Christians. Even the bull, though 
fierce and cruel, states that some things in my 
books are harmless, although it condemns them 
by a judgment simply monstrous. If, therefore, 
I should undertake to recant these, would it not 
happen that I alone of all men should damn 
the truth which all, friends and enemies alike, 

**The second class of my works inveighs 
against the Papacy as against that which both 
by precept and example has laid waste all 
Christendom, body and soul. No one can deny 
or dissemble this fact, since general complaints 
witness that the consciences of all believers are 
snared, harassed, and tormented by the laws of 
the Pope and the doctrines of men, and espe- 
cially that the goods of this famous German na- 
tion are devoured in numerous and ignoble ways. 
... If , therefore, I should withdraw these books, 
I would add strength to tyranny and open win- 
dows and doors to their impiety, which would 
then flourish more freely than it ever dared be- 

'*In the third sort of books I have written 
against some private individuals who tried to 


defend the Roman tyranny and tear down my 
pious doctrine. In these I confess I was more 
bitter than is becoming to a minister of reli- 
gion. . . . Yet neither is it right for me to recant 
what I have said in these, for then tyranny and 
impiety would rage, and reign against the people 
of God more violently than ever by reason of my 

When he was angrily pressed for a more sim- 
ple and direct answer, he gave the Diet what it 
sought : — 

** Since Your Majesty and Your Lordships 
ask for a plain answer, I will give you one with- 
out either horns or teeth. Unless I am con- 
victed by Scripture or by right reason (for I 
trust neither in Popes nor in councils, since they 
have often erred and contradicted themselves) 
— unless I am thus convinced, I am bound by 
the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive 
to the Word of God. I neither can nor will 
recant anything, since it is neither right nor 
safe to act against conscience. God help me, 

At last a voice was lifted against the un-Christ- 
like ways of Christ's Church, once more a higher 
standard was raised than the fallible judgment 
of fallible men, at last the liberty of Christian 


men was declared. In the voice echoed the 
tones of Huss, of Wycliffe, of the martyred Al- 

At once Luther was dismissed. His joyful re- 
lief was expressed in the words, *' I am through! 
I am through! " For several days he remained in 
Worms, where he was visited by many persons 
who tried to persuade him to a less radical posi- 
tion. But he would not be moved. 

On April 26, he left the city. Preaching on the 
way he visited his loved Eisenach and Mohra, 
the home of his father's youth, where he met his 
kinsfolk. The expiration of the Emperor's safe- 
conduct was at hand, and in its stead a new 
paper was being prepared to deal with his case, 
a paper draughted by the Emperor himself. 
Luther's doctrines were declared to be the most 
intolerable of heresies, and not only he but his 
followers were to be put under the ban of the 

Before the paper was signed, however, Luther 
was safe. His Elector and his friends determined 
that he should seek a temporary refuge in the 
castle of Wartburg, the towering edifice at which 
he had gazed often from the streets of Eisenach. 
Thither after a pretended capture, he was carried 
on May 4. 


His disappearance caused the most intense ex- 
citement. By many it was believed that he had 
been murdered; by others the truth was sus- 
pected. The sentiment of the people was ex- 
pressed by Albert Diirer, the painter: **I know 
not whether he yet lives or is murdered, but in 
any case he has suffered for the Christian truth. 
... If we lose this man who has written more 
clearly than any one who has lived for one hun- 
dred and forty years, may God grant his spirit 
to another. . . . O God, if Luther is dead, who 
will henceforth expound to us the gospel?" 



The stronghold which was to be Luther's home 
for almost a year was already associated with 
the real and legendary history of Germany. 
Here had dwelt the saintly Elizabeth, of whose 
good deeds Luther had heard with awe as a lad, 
and here the Meistersingers of Wagner's opera 
had held their contests. 

To Luther was assigned a room and several 
attendants. Friends who were in the secret of 
his hiding were allowed to visit him and he was 
permitted to walk and ride about and even to 
accompany the chase. Here as elsewhere his 
mind was occupied with the great problem of 
religion. A letter in which he recounts an ex- 
perience of the hunt reveals his tenderness of 
heart and the obsession of his spirit with the 
salvation of mankind : — 

"Last week I hunted two days to see what 
the bitter-sweet pleasure of heroes was like. 
We took two hares and a few poor partridges 
— a worthy occupation indeed for men with 


nothing to do. I even moralized among the 
snares and dogs, and the superficial pleasure 
I may have derived from the hunt was equaled 
by the pity and pain which are a necessary part 
of it. It is an image of the devil hunting inno- 
cent little creatures with his guns and his 
hounds, the impious magistrates, bishops, and 
theologians. I deeply felt this parable of the 
simple and faithful soul. A still more cruel 
parable followed. With great pains I saved a 
little live rabbit, and rolled it up in the sleeve 
of my cloak, but when I left it and went a little 
way off, the dogs found the poor rabbit and 
killed it by biting its right leg and throat 
through the cloth. Thus do the Pope and 
Satan rage to kill souls and are not stopped by 
my labor. I am sick of this kind of hunting and 
prefer to chase bears, wolves, foxes, and that 
sort of wicked magistrate with spear and arrow. 
It consoles me to think that the mystery of sal- 
vation is near, when hares and innocent crea- 
tures will be captured rather by men than by 
bears, wolves, and hawks, i.e., the bishops and 

In his imprisonment Luther was frequently de- 
pressed. The rigors of monastic training began 
to have their effect in ill health, which made his 


life from now on often a burden. Various forms 
of indigestion resulting in vertigo, the nervous 
irritation and exhaustion which follows over- 
work, and finally calculus began to attack the 
strong peasant body, but did not quench the 
fiery spirit or seriously affect the busy hand and 
brain. One reason for anxiety was Luther's fear 
that his disappearance might seem cowardly. 

He described his life in one of the many let- 
ters which he sent from the Wartburg as one of 
"indolent idleness." Yet never had his pen 
moved so rapidly. From it poured tracts, ser- 
mons, expository writings and scores of letters 
to hearten his friends. He did not allow him- 
self to be separated from that world which he 
had left in turmoil. When the Archbishop of 
Mayence, emboldened by his absence, opened 
a new sale of indulgences, Luther wrote him so 
indignant and fiery a letter that the Archbishop 
submitted in fright. 

More important than any other work ac- 
complished in the Wartburg was the transla- 
tion of the New Testament into German, which 
was finished in less than three months. This 
version was by no means the first translation of 
the Scriptures into German. Those which ex- 
isted were, however, made from the Latin Vul- 


gate and included its errors. Moreover, they 
were written in a poor Latinized German im- 
possible for the average reader to understand. 
Luther used not the Vulgate, but the original 
Greek, for his source of material and the Ger- 
man of the common people for his vehicle of 

For the task of translation he was amply 
prepared. He was, in the first place, thor- 
oughly acquainted with the Bible, as only those 
can be who have turned to it in hours of deep 
despair and have felt in their own hearts the 
spiritual experiences of its characters and the 
healing of its divine consolation. The study 
of Greek had become a passion with Luther at 
Erfurt and he had never ceased to apply him- 
self to it, especially to the Erasmian edition of 
the New Testament. In the third place, his 
native German had become in his mouth a glow- 
ing and living tongue, such as it had never been. 
Acquainted with the speech of the fireside and 
the market-place, he sought with careful pa- 
tience for those words which would make most 
clear to simple folk the meaning of the original. 
Added to his capacity for taking pains was 
the true literary gift which would have made 
him famous even if he had never exhibited a 


reforming zeal. Thus prepared and working 
with superhuman swiftness, he produced a ver- 
sion which possesses amazing unity. 

The humble spirit in w^hich he labored may 
be seen in an allusion to his work: "I also have 
undertaken to translate the Bible. It is good 
for me, for otherwise I might have died with 
the fond opinion that I was learned." 

That he was successful in his task, four cen- 
turies abundantly testify. The Luther transla- 
tion has never been equaled or superseded. 
Beside giving to his dear Germans their Bible, 
Luther gave them from many rough dialects 
the noble tongue in which Goethe and Schiller 
were to write. 

The New Testament was published in Sep- 
tember, 1522. The volume was made as hand- 
some as possible with fine woodcuts, and con- 
tained a description of the Holy Land by 
Melanchthon and many notes. 

Outside the quiet Wartburg confusion reigned. 
The acceptance of Luther's doctrines of Chris- 
tian liberty released mankind from a thousand 
binding rules. As in all times of change in human 
thought, many lost their moorings, and those 
who were not sufficiently clear-headed and 
strong-willed to adjust their lives to freer ways 


and higher ideals went sadly adrift. There were 
radicals, especially in Wittenberg and Zwickau, 
who out-Luthered Luther and carried reform far 
beyond the limits of common sense and reason. 

One of the first practical effects of the new 
teaching was the marriage of parish priests, a 
reform of which Luther heartily approved and 
which he had recommended. That the parish 
priest living among his people, ministered to of 
necessity by women, should be compelled to 
live in celibacy, Luther in his "Address to the 
Nobility of the German Nation " had declared to 
be wrong, especially since the condition had been 
productive of constant scandal to the Church. 

The breaking of the monastic vow of chastity 
seemed at first to Luther to be different from 
the violation of the celibacy demanded of the 
parish priest. Presently, however, he came to 
the conclusion that all monastic vows were un- 
godly because they were contrary to nature and 
to faith. 

The new spirit showed itself in the repeal of 
certain civil laws and the passing of new and 
sensible ordinances. The begging friars were 
forbidden to ply their business, the worthy poor 
were provided for, a part of the funds for this 
purpose being drawn from the funds of monas- 


tic brotherhoods. Presently the services of the 
church were simpHfied. 

Among those who brought discredit to the 
new movement was that Carls tadt who had 
debated with Luther against Eck, and also fa- 
natical men from Zwickau, who preached a 
return to a primitive life with the abolition of 
all social distinctions, of education, and of all 
labor but manual labor. With such earnestness 
did they advocate their doctrines that not only 
the unlearned but men like Melanchthon were 
considerably impressed. Even the Elector had 
grave doubts as to the wisdom of resisting them, 
anarchists though they were. 

Each proposed change brought protest from 
the more conservative of the population and 
each refusal of the conservative to accede 
brought fresh tumult from the radicals. So 
concerned was Luther that he made in Decem- 
ber a hurried and secret visit to Wittenberg. 
In the progress of true liberty he rejoiced, but 
he deplored then and thereafter all violence. 
Changes must be made gradually, in an orderly 
way, and by the State. In the new liberty old 
evils would disappear of themselves. "Pay no 
more money for bulls, candles, bells, pictures, 
churches," said he; "but declare that the Chris- 


tian life consists in faith and love, and keep doing 
it for two years, and you will see what happens 
to Pope, bishop, cardinal, priest, monk, nun, 
bells, steeples, masses, vigils, cowl, cap, shaven 
poll, rules, statutes, and the whole swarm and 
rabble of the Pope's government. They will 
vanish like smoke." For the excesses of the 
fanatics, with their faith in dreams, their advo- 
cacy of the destruction of property, their in- 
sistence upon re-baptizing all their converts by 
immersion, he had only condemnation. 

After Luther's visit to Wittenberg the tumult 
did not diminish, but rather increased. So great 
was the confusion that he now appeared openly, 
taking upon himself all the responsibility for 
his return. At once he assumed his old duties as 
teacher and preacher. 

With him he brought order. Calm, con- 
trolled, he showed that the power of the new 
gospel was to build as well as to destroy. For 
eight successive days he preached in the city 
church, the general subject of his discourses 
being the Pauline text, '*A11 things are lawful 
unto me, but all things are not expedient." 
Violence was of the devil; the Christian liberty 
of which they made so much was liberty to 
serve one's fellow men. 


In his second sermon he declared a principle 
which he held firmly, contrary to the policy of 
the Roman Church and contrary to the policy 
of some other reformers. 

"Compel or force any one with power I will 
not, for faith must be gentle and unforced. 
Take an example by me. I opposed indulgences 
and all the papists, but not with force; I only 
wrote, preached, and used God's Word, and 
nothing else. That Word has broken the Papacy 
more than any king or emperor ever broke it. 
Had I wished it, I might have brought Germany 
to civil war. Yes, at Worms I might have started 
a game which would not have been safe for the 
Emperor, but it would have been a fool's game 
So I did nothing, but only let the Word act." 

With seemly deliberation and without tur- 
moil began the upbuilding of the new Church. 
At first the old form of service was continued 
with a few modifications, but presently the 
Latin of the mass was given up for German 
so that all might understand, and later a 
simpler service was prepared which might or 
might not be used. In order to provide the 
people with a part in the service, Luther wrote 
forty-two hymns, of which the greatest is "A 
Tvlighty Fortress is our God." 


Among the reforming measures upon which 
Luther laid particular emphasis was that of 
education. Everywhere parents were urged to 
send their children to school. For their proper 
training Luther prepared a curriculum which 
included music and instruction in religion. In 
1524 he published a ** Letter to the Aldermen 
and cities of Germany on the erection and main- 
tenance of Christian schools." He argued that 
children should be taught, first, that they might 
read the Bible, and second, so that they might 
be trained to govern. Not only boys but girls 
should be educated and public libraries should 
be established in every town. 

More trying than any other difficulty which 
Luther had to meet w^as a widespread and 
serious uprising of the peasants in 1525. From 
them had come requests for many years that 
their condition be ameliorated. The demand was 
wholly justifiable. To their plea the princes 
would not listen, but responded with cruel pun- 
ishments. Gradually the temper of the peasants 
changed. They began to dream of revolution, 
to believe that it was their duty to destroy all 
rulers so that God's kingdom might come. 
Luther's stirring ** Address to the Nobility of 
the German Nation," which proposed so many 


reforms, seemed to reveal him as the prophet 
and leader of their cause. 

It was a leadership which Luther did not de- 
sire and would not have. While he reproved 
the princes for their tyranny, he condemned 
the peasants for their threats. Upon becoming 
real Christians both would find their grievances 
to vanish. It was right and necessary that there 
should be rulers and to them men should give 

But to Luther's admonishing the peasants 
would not hearken. Furiously denouncing him 
as a traitor to their cause, they began a fierce 
warfare. Burning and murdering, they rushed 
upon the unprepared princes, many of whom 
felt in their terror that there was nothing to do 
but yield. 

Forced to choose between what he considered 
to be a lawful if imperfect government and the 
worst sort of anarchy, Luther advised vehe- 
mently that the uprising be quelled. Bitterly 
reproached at the time and since, he is be- 
lieved to-day to have taken the only possible 
course for one who saw clearly that all he had 
accomplished was becoming allied in the minds 
of sensible men with riot and revolution. He 
spoke with the deepest pity for the poor, mis- 


guided peasants, but said and believed that it 
was better to cut off a member than to allow 
the whole body to perish. The war ended with 
the defeat of the peasants. 

The years following immediately upon Lu- 
ther's return from the Wartburg saw the end 
of the old friendship with Staupitz, to whom 
Luther owed so much and whom he had dearly 
loved. Unable to follow his former disciple along 
the dangerous path which he had chosen, the 
old man died in alienation though not in anger. 

A more serious disaster befell the friendship 
of Luther and the famous Erasmus. Admir- 
ing greatly the younger man's courage, Erasmus 
differed with him so widely by nature that the 
two could not long pursue a peaceful course. 
Erasmus had mercilessly attacked the lives of 
the monks in his famous " Praise of Folly," but 
he was unalterably opposed to conflict with the 
ecclesiastical authorities and carefully avoided 
any attack upon ecclesiastical doctrines. To 
Luther his attitude seemed cowardly. Doctrinal 
differences added fuel to a flame which was al- 
ready burning brightly and the two became 
open enemies. 

Among those who had reformation at heart 
was Ulrich von Hutten. Like Erasmus he was 


a brilliant critic of the corruption of the Church, 
but his motive was that of the German patriot 
who longed to cut the cord which bound his 
nation to Rome. Upon the publication of Lu- 
ther's "Address to the Nobility of the German 
Nation," which expressed so many of his con- 
victions. Von Hutten and other knights of his 
own way of thinking hailed Luther as one of 
themselves. Offering their protection, they hov- 
ered about Worms during the Diet, determined 
to defend Luther with their lives. 

But the spirit of the two men was different; 
the sword of Von Hutten was the sword of steel 
and the sword of Luther was the sword of the 
spirit. Von Hutten was interested in the unifi- 
cation and independence of the German nation, 
Luther in the spread of the true gospel. Never- 
theless, each aided the other. 

During the stay of Luther in the Wartburg, 
his doctrines had spread rapidly and steadily. 
This expansion continued until the Peasants' 
War put a check upon it. The efforts of the 
Popes who succeeded Leo X to stamp out the 
Lutheran heresy failed. At the Diet of Nurem- 
berg in 1524 the Protestant estates demanded 
a free council of the Church to meet at Spires. 
At Spires in 1526 a decree was passed by which 


each state of the Empire was to act in matters 
of faith '*as it could answer to God and the 
Emperor." Individual liberty of conscience was 
not yet attained, but a tremendous stride had 
been made in its direction. ]\Iany rulers ac- 
cepted the new religion, some because they 
sincerely believed it, others because of politi- 
cal ambitions. For the most part the northern 
states accepted, the southern rejected it. 



In the midst of his anxiety about the Peasants' 
War and his difficulties with Erasmus, Luther 
took a step which pleased some of his friends, 
displeased others, and startled all. He had long 
since declared that vows of celibacy were void, 
and now he determined to marry. He declared 
that only fools and fanatics thought marriage 
a reproach, and pointed to "Abraham, David, 
Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and all the patriarchs, proph- 
ets, and apostles, as well as many holy martyrs 
and bishops" as examples of pious men "who 
knew that God had made them men and were 
not ashamed to be and to be thought so and 
therefore considered that they should not re- 
main alone." He was not carried away by ad- 
miration or affection for any particular person, 
since he had not decided who his bride should 

Among those who had vowed themselves to 
the life of the cloister and who had been affected 
by the new teaching were the nuns in a con- 
vent at Nimbschen. Of these, twelve decided to 


escape. Among them was Catharine von Bora, 
a pious and modest young woman of good edu- 
cation, who at the age of five had been con- 
signed to the cloister and who at the age of 
fifteen, responding naturally to the influences 
about her, had been consecrated as a nun. 

Nine of these young women came, destitute 
and poorly clad, to Wittenberg. Before long all 
were provided for either by marriage or in other 
ways, except Catharine, who went to live in the 
home of a former burgomaster. She was not long 
without admirers, or, indeed, without love affairs. 
Not beautiful in feature, she possessed the greater 
attractiveness of a good mind, much more edu- 
cation than most young women of her age could 
boast of, and a practical acquaintance with all 
the lore of housekeeping and even of farming. 

That Luther had for a long time not the least 
intention of marrying *' Katie," as he afterwards 
called her, is shown in his active interest in her 
possible marriage first to a rich young man who 
was in love with her and later to another suitor. 
Finally, appreciating her ability and her many 
attractive qualities, and with the calm mind of 
a man of forty-one rather than the impetuous 
passion of youth, Luther married her himself 
on the evening of June 13, 1525, at the Black 


Cloister. In his own words, "I was not carried 
away by passion, for I do not love my wife that 
way, but esteem her as a friend." Two weeks 
later the wedding festivities were held with many 
guests, among them old Hans and Margaret, 
who had embraced their son's evangelical faith 
and who now rejoiced greatly. To the newly 
married pair the Elector, the town, and the uni- 
versity sent presents. 

The marriage brought to Luther great happi- 
ness. Katie put to use all her housewifely skill 
and the Black Cloister, which had for so many 
years sheltered an unnatural assemblage of 
men, became the comfortable abode of a Christian 
family. Katie cared for her husband with the 
most tender anxiety; she administered his af- 
fairs admirably, and truly loved him. For her 
and her energy and ability Luther had whole- 
hearted admiration. "I would not change my 
Katie for France and Venice," said he, "be- 
cause God has given her to me, and other women 
have much worse faults, and she is true to me 
and a good mother to my children." "I am rich, 
God has given me my nun and three children: 
what care I if I am in debt, Katie pays the bills." 

There grew in the hearts of the late-wedded 
pair, not merely respect and admiration for each 


other, but a true and deep affection which was 
not without the romance of early youth. 

To them were born six children, — Hans, Eliza- 
beth (who lived less than a yesir), Magdalene 
(w^ho lived to be thirteen), Martin, Paul, and 
Margaret. Though Luther was almost middle- 
aged when the oldest of his children was born, 
and though his life was filled with important 
affairs, he made himself their companion and 
playfellow. During an absence from home, he 
wrote little Hans a letter which shows the ten- 
derness and skill w ith which he adapted a great 
truth to the mind of a child : — 

"Grace and peace in Christ, dear little son. 
I am glad to hear that you are studying and 
saying your prayers. Continue to do so, my 
son, and when I come home I will bring you a 
pretty present. 

"I know a lovely, pleasant garden where 
many children are; they wear golden jackets and 
gather nice apples under the trees and pears and 
cherries and purple plums and yellow plums, and 
sing and run and jump and are happy and have 
pretty little ponies with golden reins and silver 
saddles. I asked the man who owned the gar- 
den whose they were. He said, *They are the 


children who say their prayers and study and 
are good.' Then said I: 'Dear man, I also have 
a son whose name is Hans Luther; may he come 
into the garden and eat the sweet apples and 
pears and ride a fine pony and play with these 
children?' Then the man said: *If he says his 
prayers and is good, he may come into the gar- 
den and Phil and Justy too, and when they all 
come they shall have whistles and drums and 
fifes and dance and shoot little cross-bows.' 
Then he showed me a fine large lawn in the gar- 
den for dancing, where hang real golden whistles 
and fine silver cross-bows. But it was yet early 
and the children had not finished eating and I 
could not wait to see them dance, so I said to 
the man: *My dear Sir, I must go and write at 
once to my dear little Hans about all this, so 
that he will say his prayers and study and be 
good, so that he may come into the garden, and 
he has an Auntie Lena whom he must bring 
with him.' Then the man said; * All right, go and 
tell him about it.' So, dear little Hans, study 
and say your prayers and tell Phil and Justy 
to say their prayers and study too, so you may 
all come into the garden together. God bless you. 
Give Auntie Lena my love and a kiss from me. 
"Your loving father, 

"Martin Luther." 


The "Aunt Lena" alluded to was Katie's 
aunt, who had been like her an inmate of the 
convent of Nimbschen and who became a valued 
member of Luther's household. 

In the education of his children Luther took 
a deep interest. In their minds and childish 
ways, he found a never-ending store of illus- 
trations. "We must rejoice in the Lord, but 
such a joy will often lead us astray, too. David 
had to endure many a temptation until he 
turned to the fear of God and remained therein. 
Therefore he says in the Second Psalm, * Serve 
the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.' 
They go together — joy and fear. My little 
Hans can do it before me, but I cannot do it 
before God. If I sit and write and Hans sings a 
song over there and plays too noisily, I speak to 
him about it and he sings more quietly with care 
and reverence. So God will have us always joy- 
ful, with but fear and honor to him." 

The family in the Black Cloister was not lim- 
ited to Luther's own immediate kin. Anxious 
to improve her husband's estate, Katie took 
student boarders. Besides there were many 
guests, among them at various times twelve 
nieces and nephews, and needy folk of all kinds. 
No matter how crowded the Black Cloister, there 


was always room for one more needy person; no 
matter how pressed for room the family table, 
another plate could quickly be set. 

The students and guests, both regular and ir- 
regular, took constant note of all that Luther 
said. This material when collected became his 
"Table Talk." It is not uniformly valuable as 
a record of historical facts, but is invaluable as 
a revelation of the man Luther. Expressions of 
the most sublime spiritual emotion appear be- 
side humorous accounts of household events or 
contemporary happenings. The variety of the 
affairs upon which he was consulted as well as 
the amusement with which he regarded the self- 
appointed amanuenses are shown in an incident 
which one of them recorded. 

"After the doctor had gone to his room for 
the night, a messenger came with a note from 
the widow of a pastor of Belgern with a request 
for a husband. Luther said to the messenger: 
* She is of age and must look out for herself; I 
cannot help her.' When the messenger had 
gone, he laughed and said to me: *For Heaven's 
sake, Schlaginhaufen, write that down too. 
Is n't it a nuisance.^ They must think I am 
a matrimonial agent. Fie on you, old world! 
Friend, write it down and mark it! '" 


Overzealous as the amanuenses sometimes 
were in recording conversations with which a 
later age has been impatient, they recorded 
much without which our picture of the man 
would be incomplete. Over and over in various 
ways and in simple language, at the family table 
and in family gatherings, Luther expressed those 
principles which he had declared in his books 
and sermons. 

"The world does not know the hidden treas- 
ures of God. It cannot be persuaded that the 
maid working obediently and the servant faith- 
fully performing his duty, or the woman rearing 
her children are as good as the praying monk 
who strikes his breast and wrestles with his 

"The principal study of theology is to learn 
of Christ and know Him well." 

"Since our Lord God has made this tran- 
sient kingdom, the sky, the earth and all things 
in them, so beautiful, how much more beautiful 
will he make the eternal kingdom." 

"How wonderful it is that God is so rich! He 
gives enough, but we don't appreciate it. He 
gave to Adam the whole world, but that was 
nothing; what he cared about was a single tree, 
and so he must ask why God had forbidden it 


to him. It is the same to-day. God has given 
us enough to learn in His revealed Word, but 
we leave that and seek after his hidden will, 
which, however, we are unable to learn. There- 
fore it is no more than right if in acting thus we 
are utterly ruined." 

Music, in Luther's opinion, was one of the 
greatest gifts of God to mankind. In the Black 
Cloister the family sang not only in the evening, 
but at meals, both secular and sacred songs. 
Singing not only drove away care, but even the 
devil himself "flees from the sound of music 
as he does from the exhortation of religion.'* 
Music, said Luther, should be taught to young 
people and should be supported by the State, 
** for the preservation of the arts as well as of 
the laws is the work of monarchs." He de- 
plored the fact that while there were so many 
fine secular poems and songs there were so few 
fine spiritual songs. This need he did his best, 
both by his own efforts and by the encourage- 
ment of others, to supply. He said that if Da- 
vid were to arise from the dead he would be 
astonished at the progress that had been made 
in music. With what joy would Luther have 
hailed the master of all modern musicians, John 
Sebastian Bach, who was two centuries later to 


raise Lutheran music and all music to a height 
never before attained or since surpassed! 

For one of the members of his household, a 
devoted servant, Wolfgang Sieberger, Luther 
wrote a letter which reveals his playful humor. 
It pretended to come to Luther from the birds 
which Wolfgang tried to snare. 

"We thrushes, blackbirds, finches, linnets, 
goldfinches and all other pious, honorable birds, 
who migrate this Winter over Wittenberg, give 
your kindness to know, that we are credibly 
informed that one Wolfgang Sieberger, your 
servant, has conceived a great wicked plot 
against us, and has bought some old, rotten 
nets, very dear to make a fowling-net out of an- 
ger and hatred to us. He undertakes to rob us of 
the freedom God has given us to fly through the 
air, a thing we have not deserved of him. All 
this, as yourself can imagine, is a great trouble 
and danger to us poor birds, who have neither 
houses nor barns nor anything else, and so we 
humbly and kindly pray you to restrain your 
servant, or, if that cannot be, at least to cause 
him to strew corn on the fowling-net in the 
evening and not to get up in the morning before 
eight, so that we can continue our journey over 
Wittenberg. If he will not do this but keeps on 


wickedly seeking our lives, we will pray God to 
plague him, and instead of us to send frogs, lo- 
custs and snails into the fowling-net by day and 
at night to give him mice, fleas, lice and bugs so 
that he will forget us and leave us free. Why 
does he not use his wrath and industry against 
sparrows, swallows, magpies, crows, ravens, 
mice and rats? They do you much harm, rob 
and steal corn, oats and barley even out of the 
houses, whereas we only eat crumbs and a stray 
grain or two of wheat. We leave our case to 
right reason whether he has not done us wrong. 
We hope to God, that as many of our brothers 
and friends escaped from him, we too, who saw 
his dirty old nets yesterday, may escape from 

"Written in our lofty home in the trees with 
our usual quill and seal. 

"* Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow 
not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; 
yet our Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye 
not much better than they.'^'" 

The years brought grief as well as joy to the 
Luther family. The death of the baby Eliza- 
beth was truly mourned and the death of Mag- 
dalene almost prostrated the mighty reformer. 
Of her he said, " God has given no bishop so great 


a gift in a thousand years as he has given me in 
her." Both Luther and his wife had serious 
illnesses and Luther's health failed steadily. 
Never comfortable, he was often visited by tor- 
turing pain in which he prayed that his life 
might end. The death of his father in 1530 and 
of his mother in 1531 caused him keen sorrow. If 
the discipline of his youth was ever resented, the 
resentment was long since forgotten. "Now I 
am sorrowful," he wrote, "for I have received 
tidings of the death of my Father, that dear and 
gentle old man whose name I bear, and although 
I am glad for his sake that his journey to Christ 
was so easy and pious and that, freed from the 
monsters of the world he rests in peace, never- 
theless my heart is moved to sorrow. For under 
God I owe my life and bringing-up to him." 

In joy and sorrow, in sickness and health, 
whether affairs were moving smoothly along or 
whether vindictive enemies or rebellious servants 
annoyed and angered him, Luther continued his 
hard work, teaching, preaching, and attending 
to a large correspondence and to multitudinous 
affairs of greater or less importance. 

His popularity as a teacher did not abate. 
Until the day of his death he employed that 
simplicity of speech which he felt to be one of the 


chief requirements for a good teacher. His in- 
terest in his students did not end with the de- 
livery of the lecture, for he took great pains to 
discover whether the lessons were really under- 
stood. Though he might be impatient with the 
Papist, he was always patient with youth. Said 
he: *'Some masters rate the proud youngsters 
to make them feel what they are, but I always 
praise the arguments of the boys, no matter how 
crude they are, for Melanchthon's strict manner 
of overturning the poor fellows so quickly dis- 
pleases me. Every one must rise by degrees, for 
no one can attain to true excellence suddenly." 

Luther's busy pen produced in all four hun- 
dred and twenty works which range in size from 
small pamphlets to large books. Indifferent for 
the most part to his style, anxious only to make 
his thought clear, he is the finest writer of his 
age and one of the finest writers of all time. 

In order that the doctrines of the Church 
might be easily comprehended, he prepared 
the Large and Small Catechisms in which the 
Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the 
Lord's Prayer were expounded clause by clause, 
the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist 
w^ere explained, and various forms of prayer 
were given. Of the two the Small Catechism 


is the greater. Avoiding all polemics, all dis- 
putation, all attacks upon those who had per- 
verted the truth, Luther translated into the 
simple language of children and of unlearned 
men the great truths of the gospel, and pro- 
duced thereby one of his most enduring works. 
To the simplicity, beauty, and truth of this 
"layman's Bible," as Luther called it, many have 
testified, none more eloquently than the his- 
torian Von Ranke. Said he: "It is as childlike 
as it is profound, as comprehensible as it is 
unfathomable, simple and sublime. Happy he 
whose soul was fed by it, who clings to it ! He 
possesses an imperishable comfort in every mo- 
ment; under a thin shell, a kernel of truth suflS- 
cient for the wisest of the wise." 

The Small Catechism had at once an enor- 
mous circulation. Edition after edition was 
printed until in less than forty years a hundred 
thousand copies had been sold. The claim of 
Lutherans, that next to the Bible it is the most 
widely translated and circulated book in the 
world, is probably justified. 

In 1532 Luther completed his greatest work, 
the translation of the Bible which he had begun 
with the translation of the New Testament at 
the Wartburg in 1521. The translation of the 


Old Testament was begun in 1522 and was pub- 
lished in four parts. Luther was assisted by 
Melanchthon, and two other scholars, Auro- 
gallus and Rorer, and when all was finished a 
revision was made with the additional aid of 
Cruciger, Bugenhagen, and Jonas. 

The work was much more difficult than that 
on the New Testament, even with the able as- 
sistance of other scholars. Luther made humor- 
ous comment upon its difficulties. " We have 
so much trouble translating Job, on account of 
the grandeur of his sublime style, that he seems 
to be much more impatient of our efforts to turn 
him into German than he was of the consola- 
tions of his friends." Again: "I am now at w^ork 
translating the Prophets. How hard it is to 
make the Hebrew writers speak German ! They 
withstand our efforts, not wishing to give up 
their native tongue for a barbarous idiom, just 
as the nightingale would not change her sweet 
song to imitate the cuckoo whose monotonous 
note she abhors." 

The virtues of the New Testament transla- 
tion are the virtues of the Old. Sound in scholar- 
ship, noble in style, free in idiom, yet faith- 
ful to the original, the German Bible remains 
Luther's greatest monument. 



Just as Luther, though he towered above all 
the men of his time, was but one of many who 
felt the corruption and needs of the Church, so 
the Lutheran Church, though first in time and 
largest in numbers, w^as but one of the churches 
in w^hich the Reformation took shape. If there 
were those who hoped that the whole Christian 
world would become Lutheran in the sense 
in which it had been Roman Catholic, they 
soon learned that their hopes were vain. Even 
in Germany the Reformation did not remain 
within the exact mould which Luther designed. 
Deeply interested in the religious unification of 
Germany, firmly fixed in his own religious opin- 
ions, he demanded entire agreement w^ith his. 
views and resented bitterly the inability of others 
to see exactly as he saw. 

Among those who differed with him was the 
Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, who had begun 
his w^ork independently. lie rejected Luther's 
doctrine of the real presence in the Lord's Sup- 
per and made of it merely a memorial feast. To 


Luther who believed that in this doctrine was 
embodied one of the most sacred assurances 
of God's continued presence among mankind, 
Zwingli's teaching was intolerable. Moreover, 
Zwingli cherished political plans which looked 
forward to an alliance against the Pope. Luther 
was wholly opposed to armed resistance — here 
was another irreconcilable difference. Zwingli's 
doctrines spread not only through Switzerland, 
but to Luther's displeasure into South Germany 
as well. Between him and Zwingli a sharp cor- 
respondence was begun which grew into large 

In 1529 the Catholic majority in a second 
Diet at Spires reversed the action of 1526. At 
once five evangelical princes, including the 
Elector of Saxony and Philip the Landgrave 
of Hesse, together with the representatives of 
fourteen free cities, offered a formal protest, 
refusing to abide by the new decision. Subse- 
quently in order to unite the protesting forces, 
who from this time were called "Protestants," 
Philip called a meeting at Marburg to discuss 
the differences of opinion with the hope that 
Luther and Zwingli might come to an agreement 
and make common cause against the Papacy. 

The Marburg Colloquy resulted only in an 


amicable statement of those points on which 
the reformers agreed. The chief question — that 
of the Lord's Supper — was left undecided. Two 
years later Zwingli accompanying the Protestant 
forces as chaplain perished in a battle between 
the Catholic and Protestant cantons of Switzer- 
land. Eventually the Germans who had been 
influenced by the doctrines of Zwingli returned 
to their fellowship with Luther, signing the 
Wittenberg Concordia in 1536. 

Busy with wars, the Emperor, since the Diet 
of Worms in 1521, had been able to pay but little 
attention to his German subjects and their an- 
noying religious questions. Now, in 1530, he de- 
termined to settle once for all their disputes, and 
summoned a Diet to meet at Augsburg. The 
Wittenberg theologians, among them Luther 
and Melanchthon, set forth at once, going as 
far as Coburg on the southern border of Saxony, 
beyond which they dared not proceed without a 
safe-conduct from the Emperor. In the middle 
of April safe-conducts arrived for all the party 
but Luther, who had to stay behind. He was 
provided with a royal abode in the castle of 
Feste Coburg, where for six months he worked 
and watched the proceedings of the Diet from 


The Diet decided to take up first of all the 
religious question. Melanchthon had prepared 
at great pains an official statement of the doc- 
trines of the reformers which is known as the 
** Augsburg Confession," and which remains to 
this day the chief and universally accepted sym- 
bol or confession of the Lutheran Church. The 
theology of the Confession is Luther's, the form 
Melanchthon's. In it are exhibited the learning 
for which Luther so ardently admired his friend, 
his keenness, his ability to state vdih simplicity 
and clearness abstract principles, and finally all 
his tact as a mediator. Luther's distance from 
the Diet and the expedition with which the final 
form had to be decided upon made it impossible 
for Luther to see it when it was entirely com- 
pleted. Of an earlier and rough draft he said, 
"I have read over Master Philip's Apology.. I 
know not how to improve or change it, nor 
would it become me, since I cannot move so 
softly and gently." 

Though the session at which the Confession 
was read was secret, the fact that it was read 
at all gave Luther the deepest satisfaction as 
he contrasted the occasion with his own appear- 
ance alone and surrounded by enemies nine 
years earlier. Said he: *'Our enemies certainly 


did their best to prevent the Emperor allowing 
it to be read, and they did succeed in preventing 
its being read in the pubHc hall before all the 
people. But the Emperor heard it before all the 
princes and estates of the Empire. I am over- 
joyed to be living at this hour, when Christ is 
openly confessed by so many in a great public 
assembly and with so good confession." 

For many weeks discussion and negotia- 
tion continued. The opposition of the Catholic 
party, the differences of opinion among the 
reformers themselves, the growing certainty 
that hopes of agreement were vain plunged the 
reformers into despair. 

From the heights of Feste Coburg Luther 
wrote encouragement and cheer : — 

" I have recently seen two miracles. The first 
was, that as I looked out of my window, I saw 
the stars and the sky and the whole vault of 
heaven, with no pillars to support it; and yet the 
sky did not fall and the vault remained fast. 
But there are some who want to see the pillars 
and who would like to clasp and feel them. And 
when they are unable to do so they fidget and 
tremble as if the sky would certainly fall in, 
simply because they cannot see and feel the 
pillars under it. . . . 


"Again I saw great, thick clouds roll above 
us, so heavy that they looked like great seas, 
and I saw no ground on which they could rest 
nor any barrels to hold them and yet they fell 
not on us, but threatened us and floated on. 
When they had passed by, the rainbow shone 
forth, the rainbow which was the floor that held 
them up. It is such a weak, thin little floor and 
roof that it was almost lost in the clouds and 
looked more like a ray coming through a stained 
glass window than like a strong floor, so that it 
was as marvelous as the weight of the clouds. 
For it actually happened that this seemingly 
frail shadow held up the weight of water and 
protected us. But some people look at the thick- 
ness of the clouds and the thinness of the ray 
and they fear and worry. They would like to feel 
how strong the rainbow is, and when they cannot 
do so they think the clouds will bring on another 

The willingness of some of the reformers to 
make some concessions did not bring about 
agreement. Luther from his castle refused to 
compromise, saying that harmony was impos- 
sible unless the Pope abolished the Papacy. The 
Catholic party saw that even with the con- 
cessions which Melanchthon and his friends 


at the Diet were willing to grant, there could be 
no agreement. The Diet finally declared that 
the Augsburg Confession was rejected and that 
the heretics must recant. If they would not re- 
cant, they must be coerced. 

Among the scores of letters written by Luther 
from Feste Coburg were many which expressed 
in beautiful language his love of nature. The 
birds and their habits were always a source of 
pleasure, not only for their own graceful or amus- 
ing ways, but for their resemblance to mankind. 
To his table companions he wrote from Feste 
Coburg a description of those outside his win- 
dow: — 

" I would have you know that we, namely, 
Veit Dietrich, Cyriac Kaufmann, and I, did 
not press on to the Diet of Augsburg, but 
stopped to attend another Diet here. There is a 
coppice directly under our windows, like a little 
forest where the daws and crows are holding a 
diet; they fly to and fro at such a rate and make 
such a racket day and night that they all seem 
drunk, soused and silly. I wonder how their 
breath holds out to bicker so. Pray tell me 
have you sent any delegates to these noble es- 
tates.^ For I think they must have assembled 
from all the world. I have not yet seen their 


emperor, but nobles and soldier lads fly and 
gad about, inexpensively clothed in one color; 
all alike black, all alike gray-eyed, all alike with 
the same song, sung in different tones of big and 
little, old and young. They care not for a large 
place to meet in, for their hall is roofed with the 
vault of the sky, its floor is the carpet of green 
grass, and its walls are as far as the ends of the 
world. They do not ask for horses and trappings, 
having winged chariots to escape snares and to 
keep out of the way of man's wrath. They are 
great and puissant lords, but I have not yet 
learned what they have decided upon. As far 
as I can gather from an interpreter, however, 
they are for a vigorous campaign against wheat, 
barley, oats, and all kinds of corn and grain, 
a war in which many a knight will do great 
deeds. So we sit here in the diet and spend time 
agreeably seeing and hearing how the estates of 
the realm make merry and sing. It is pleasant to 
see how soldierly they discourse and wipe their 
bills and arm themselves for victory against the 
grain. I wish them good luck — to be all spitted 
on a skewer together. I believe they are in no 
wise different from the sophists and papists who 
go for me with their sermons and books all at 
once; I see by the example of the harsh-voiced 


daws what a profitable people they are, devour- 
ing everything on earth and clattering loud and 
long in return. 

'' To-day we heard the first nightingale, who 
could hardly believe it was April." 

To consider the dangers which seemed to 
threaten them, the Protestant princes assembled 
at Schmalkald in December and formed an alli- 
ance for mutual protection. Luther protested 
against any resort to arms to defend the Protes- 
tant doctrines. The alarm and despair of the 
reformers was dispelled when the day set for 
recantation passed and no coercive steps were 
taken against them. In July, 1532, the Religious 
Peace of Nuremberg bound both sides to peace 
until a council of the Church should be called. 
The truce made it possible for the Reforma- 
tion teaching to spread more widely. Old rulers 
died and younger men, filled with the spirit of 
independence and open to the new doctrines, 
took their places. In 1539, Luther had the satis- 
faction of preaching in Leipsic where he had 
debated with Eck and which had been long 
ruled by an enemy of Protestantism. 

As the evangelical doctrines spread, the League 
of Schmalkald became more powerful. When a 
new Pope, Paul III, ascended the throne, he sent 


to Germany a representative to arrange for an 
ecumenical council at which the question of 
heresy was to be considered. The council was 
finally summoned to meet at Mantua in May, 
1537. In order that they might come to an agree- 
ment as to their course of action, the Protes- 
tants met once more at Schmalkald. For this 
meeting Luther drew up a confession which 
was very different in spirit from the Augsburg 
Confession. Luther had no desire to conciliate. 
His articles were, however, not adopted, though 
later they found a place among the Confessions 
of the Lutheran church. Instead, in his absence 
on account of a serious attack of illness, the 
Augsburg Confession was reaffirmed. It was de- 
cided that the Pope's invitation should not be 
accepted and it was accordingly returned un- 
opened. At last, separation from the Papacy 
was complete. 

Luther's illness greatly alarmed his friends and 
fellow reformers. The attack was accompanied 
by intense suffering which he bore with fortitude. 
Believing that he was about to die and longing 
to die in his beloved Saxony, he set out for 
home. On the way he grew better and his dis- 
ciple Schlaginhaufen galloped back to Schmal- 
kald to encourage the reformers and to annoy 


the papal legate with the news of his improve- 
ment. A period of weakness followed, during 
which Luther believed once more that he would 
die and he dictated messages to his friends and 
to his wife. Once more, however, he rallied and 
in a few days was able to begin the last stage 
of his journey and ere long to be at work. 

Luther's mind was not given solely to politi- 
cal or religious problems. To him hundreds 
of questions were submitted relating to almost 
all phases of human life. Among those con- 
nected with marriage the most important and 
the most far-reaching in its consequences was 
that of Philip, the Landgrave of Hesse, one of 
the chief supporters of the Protestant cause. 
Philip, who had been disappointed in his mar- 
riage, had contracted a second and secret mar- 
riage, his wife being still living. This had been 
done with the reluctant consent of the reform- 
ers. The warmest of Luther's admirers does 
not justify this procedure, but laments it as a 
serious blunder, to be explained only upon the 
ground that Luther was still entangled in some 
of the casuistic distinctions of the mediaeval 
Church. In the hope of reclaiming the Land- 
grave from a dissolute life he consented to that 
which he considered a lesser evil. To him the 


divorce which was one alternative to this second 
and bigamous marriage, was a horror; the other 
alternative, a life of sin, was an equal horror. 
The condition which he attached to his consent, 
that the marriage be kept secret, exhibits none 
of the sound sense with which Luther met all 
other questions in his life. To Melanchthon the 
error brought remorse which was almost fatal. 
Luther, with a more robust conscience, refused 
to suffer for an act which had been done accord- 
ing to his conscience. 



Worn by his early hardships and austerities, 
exhausted by the incessant labors of his later 
years, Luther grew old before his time. The dis- 
eases which had long troubled him became more 
torturing; chronic aches turned now to acute 
misery. More and more earnestly he longed to 
lay aside "this useless, worn-out, exhausted tab- 
ernacle." He wrote in 1541, "On Palm Sun- 
day the tumor reached my ear and attacked not 
only my head, but my soul, so that the intoler- 
able anguish forced tears from my eyes (though 
I do not easily nor often weep), and I said to the 
Lord: 'May these pains cease or may I die.' I 
could not have borne that terrible fight with 
nature two full days, but on the second day the 
tumor broke. Now the winds of all the seas and 
all the forests blow through my head, so that I 
can hear nothing unless it is shouted at me. At 
least I have the advantage of being able to read 
and write even if I cannot sleep as I used to." 

In spite of almost unbearable suffering, his ex- 
traordinary diligence was but little diminished. 


Though he took no active part in the various 
conferences by which it was hoped that Cathol- 
icism and Protestantism might come to a har- 
monious agreement, he constantly advised and 
directed by letter. No whit of his old passion for 
truth was lost nor had his hatred of those who 
opposed it abated in the least. From his pen 
there continued to pour letters, pamphlets, and 
books. Two years before his death he wrote of 
the plans which he had made and those which 
others had made for him : — 

"You often urge me to write a book on Chris- 
tian discipline, but you do not say where I, 
a weary, worn, old man can get the leisure and 
the health to do it. I am pressed by writing 
letters without end; I have promised our young 
princes a sermon on drunkenness ; I have prom- 
ised certain other persons and myself a book 
on secret engagements; to others one against 
the sacramentarians; still others beg that I shall 
omit all to write a comprehensive and final com- 
mentary on the whole Bible." 

A month before his death he described v/ith 
characteristic vividness and humor himself and 
his activities : — 

" Old, decrepit, sluggish, weary, worn out, and 
now one-eyed, I write to you. Now that I am 


dead — as I seem to myself — I expect the rest 
I have deserved to be given me, but instead I 
am overwhelmed with wTiting, speaking, doing, 
transacting business, just as though I had never 
done, written, said, or accomplished anything." 

His physical weakness and suffering rose more 
and more like a dark glass between him and the 
world. The results of his struggle against the 
Papacy now seemed less valuable to him than a 
few years before, and he considered the moral 
conditions in Germany and in Wittenberg es- 
pecially to be bad. Once he left Wittenberg, 
meaning never to return, but was persuaded by 
his distressed friends to change his mind. 

The death of thirteen-year-old Magdalene in 
1542 was another cause of the depression and sad- 
ness of his latter years. From her birth, which 
followed closely upon the death of his first daugh- 
ter, Elizabeth, Luther had loved her dearly. The 
strong man, who dared to attack the greatest 
potentates and the most firmly established of 
human convictions, knelt beside the child's bed 
weeping bitterly. 

In December, 1545, the Counts of Mansfield 
asked Luther's services in settling a dispute 
between them. The fact that he had been born 
in their dominions and the existence of a warm 


personal friendship with them moved Luther 
to accept the office of mediator. In spite of 
wretched health and the bitter winter weather, 
he left at once with Melanchthon for Mansfield. 
On account of the frail health of Melanchthon, 
the work could not be completed and the party 
returned home. Late in January, when Me- 
lanchthon was still unable to leave Wittenberg, 
Luther set forth again, accompanied by his three 
sons and one of the young men of his household. 
Delayed at Halle by floods, they finally reached 
Eisleben where the conference was held. 

Greatly to Luther's joy the negotiations were 
successful. In his satisfaction with their progress 
he became more and more cheerful, even though 
his physical sufferings were acute. In the midst 
of his activity and pain, his heart turned con- 
stantly to the "dear Katie" whom he had left 
at Wittenberg, and to her on the 14th of Feb- 
ruary he wrote the last letter of many written 
her during this journey and the last indeed of 
his life : — 

" Grace and peace in the Lord. Dear Katie, we 
hope to come home this week if God will. God 
has shown great grace to the lords, who have 
been reconciled in all but two or three points. It 


still remains to make the brothers Count Albert 
and Count Gebhard real brothers; this I shall 
undertake to-day and shall invite both to visit 
me, that they may see each other, for hitherto 
they have not spoken, but have embittered each 
other by writing. But the young lords and the 
young ladies, too, are happy and make parties 
for fools' bells and skating, and have masquer- 
ades and all are very jolly, even Count Geb- 
hard 's son. So you see that God hears prayer. 

"I send you the trout given me by the Count- 
ess Albert. She is heartily happy at this union. 

"Your little sons are still at Mansfield. James 
Luther will take care of them. We eat and drink 
like lords here and they wait on us so well — 
too well, indeed, for they might make us forget 
you at Wittenberg. . . . 

"A report has reached here that Doctor Mar- 
tin Luther has left for Leipsic or Magdeburg. 
Such tales are invented by those silly wiseacres, 
your countrymen. Some say the Emperor is 
thirty miles from here, at Soest in Westphalia; 
some say that the French and the Landgrave 
of Hesse are raising troops. Let them say and 
sing; we will wait on God. God bless you. 

"Dr. Martin Luther.'* 


On the 17th of February, Luther signed the 
treaty which was drawn up between the two 
brothers. Early the following morning he be- 
came ill and his children and friends were hur- 
riedly summoned. Before he lapsed into uncon- 
sciousness the record of his sayings were com- 
pleted by the addition of his last words. Never 
had the faithful amanuensis written down sen- 
tences more filled with that faith in which he 
had lived : — 

"O my heavenly Father, one God and Father 
of our Lord Jesus Christ, thou God of all com- 
fort, I thank Thee that Thou hast given for me 
thy dear son, Jesus Christ, in whom I believe, 
whom I have preached and confessed, loved and 
praised, whom the wicked Pope and all the god- 
less shame, persecute and blaspheme. I pray 
thee, dear Lord Jesus Christ, let me commend 
my soul to thee. O heavenly Father, if I leave 
this body and depart I am certain that I will be 
with thee forever and can never, never tear my- 
self out of thy hands." 

Last of all his friends asked him, "Reverend 
father, will you stand steadfast by Christ and 
by the doctrine you have preached.'^" — and 
Luther answered firmly, "Yes." 

Before dawn he breathed his last in the town 


of his birth. From it he had never wandered far, 
yet he had shaken the world. 

The Counts of Mansfield, their admiration 
and affection for him deepened by the sacrifices 
made in their service, begged that he might be 
buried in Eisleben, but to this the Elector of 
Saxony would not give his consent. Borne back 
to the scene of his labors, accompanied by an 
honorable escort and greeted by mourning thou- 
sands, his body was carried, past the door upon 
which he had nailed his theses, into the castle 

Katie survived her husband six years. Only 
a few of her letters have been preserved; among 
them is an expression of her grief : — 

"Kind, dear sister! I can easily believe that 
you have hearty sympathy with me and my 
poor children. Who would not be sorrowful and 
mourn for so noble a man as was my dear lord, 
who much served not only one city or a single 
land but the whole world. ^ Truly I am so dis- 
tressed that I cannot tell my great heart sorrow 
to any one, and hardly know what to think or 
how I feel. I cannot eat or drink, neither can I 
sleep. If I had a principality and an empire, it 
would never have cost me so much pain to lose 
them as I now have that our Lord has taken from 


me, and not from me only, but from the whole 
world, this dear and precious man." 

The property left by Luther was first injured 
in war and was then involved in a costly lawsuit 
and lost, so that at the end of her life Katie was 
obliged to support herself by taking boarders in 
the Black Cloister. In 1552 she fled from Wit- 
tenberg on account of the plague and died and 
was buried at Torgau, far away from her home 
and the grave of her husband. 

Of Luther's six children four grew to maturity 
and married. Martin died childless, Hans had 
one daughter who died without issue, Paul and 
Margaret have descendants now living. 

Soon after Luther's death the conflict between 
the Catholic and Protestant divisions of the 
German Empire, which had so long threatened, 
came at last to a head. The horrors of religious 
war were fortunately spared to Luther, who, 
his work done, lay at peace. To his biography 
an account of the bitter strife which desolated 
Germany does not belong. We believe that the 
wise mind of Lincoln w^ould have guided free of 
shoals the American nation through the Recon- 
struction dangers; it may be that with Luther 
living, the course of German history might have 
been changed. But this is hardly probable. 


Luther's weapon was the sword of the spirit 
and not the sword of steel; a longer life would 
likely have brought him merely greater grief. 
More to the purpose is an account, now that 
four hundred years have passed since he stood 
before the church door at Wittenberg, of that 
which his work has accomplished. 

The Church of the Reformation has extended 
far beyond the Germany in which it had its 
birth and is by far the largest of the Protestant 
churches. Denmark, Sweden, and Norway hold 
almost unanimously the religious doctrines laid 
down by the reformers, and the strength and 
activity of the American Lutheran Church prove 
the vitality and the adaptability of the Lutheran 

Luther's influence, moreover, far outreaches 
the bounds of the Lutheran church. Protestant- 
ism is his. His discovery of the way of salvation 
amid so much agony of spirit is a legacy which 
he has bequeathed not to one nation or time, 
but to all peoples of all ages. Phillips Brooks 
asks the question. Is Luther's Protestantism a 
failure or a success.'* and himself declares, in 
answer: "These centuries of Anglo-Saxon life 
made by the ideas of Luther answer the question. 
The Protestantism of Milton and of Goethe, of 


Howard and of Francke, of Newton and of Leib- 
nitz, of Bunyan and of Butler, of Wordsworth 
and of Tennyson, of Wesley and of Channing, of 
Schleiermacher and of Maurice, of Washington 
and of Lincoln is not a failure. . . . This at least is 
sure, that the great principles of Martin Luther's 
life must be the principles of every advance of man 
on to the very end. Always it must be by a regen- 
eration of humanity. Always it must be by the 
pow€r of God filling the soul of man. Always it 
must be religious. Always it must be God sum- 
moning man, man reaching after God. Always 
it must be the moralist and the mystic, conscience 
and faith, meeting in the single human here or 
in humanity at large, which makes the Refor- 
mation. And however it shall come, all human 
progress must remember Martin Luther." 

Even the Roman Church which despises and 
condemns Luther owes to him a quickened life. 
Within the Church ecclesiastical training was 
improved, church government was reformed, 
the means of education were increased. The 
doctrines of Rome, however, remained un- 
changed. Indeed, upon those which Luther 
had denounced there was laid now an exag- 
gerated emphasis. 

It is wise to allow neither the enemies of a 


man nor those who laud him with too fulsome 
praise to shape our opinions of his worth. 
Closely associated with Luther for many years, 
loving him and greatly beloved by him, differing 
with him at times, aware of his short-comings, 
disapproving of his violence of speech, Philip 
Melanchthon had above all other men the oppor- 
tunity to form a true opinion of Luther and his 
work. Called to deliver over him a funeral 
oration, Melanchthon pronounced the eulogy 
with which a large part of the thinking world 
agrees : — 

"Luther brought to light the true and neces- 
sary doctrine. That the densest darkness existed 
touching the doctrine of repentance is evident. 
In his discussion he showed what true repent- 
ance is, and what is the refuge and the sure com- 
fort of the soul which quails under the sense of 
the wrath of God. He expounded Paul's doctrine 
which says that man is justified by faith. He 
showed the difference between the Law and the 
Gospel, between the righteousness of faith and 
civil righteousness. He also showed what the 
true worship of God is, and recalled the Church 
from heathenish superstition, which imagines 
that God is worshiped, even though the mind, 
agitated by some academic doubt, turns away 


from him. He bade us worship in faith and with 
a good conscience, and led us to the one Media- 
tor, the Son of God, who sits at the right hand 
of the Eternal Father and makes intercession 
for us. . . . 

"He also pointed out other services acceptable 
to God, and so adorned and guarded civil life as 
it had never been adorned and guarded by any 
other man's writings. Then from necessary serv- 
ices he separated the puerilities of human cere- 
monies, the rites and institutions which hinder 
the true worship of God. And that the heavenly 
truth might be handed down to posterity he 
translated the Prophetical and Apostolic Scrip- 
tures into the German language with so much 
accuracy that his version is more easily under- 
stood than the commentaries. 

"I do not deny that the more ardent char- 
acters sometimes make mistakes, but amid the 
weakness of human nature no one is without 
fault. But we may say of such an one what the 
ancients said of Hercules, Cimon and others: 
'rough, indeed, but worthy of all praise.' And 
in the Church, if, as Paul says, he wars a good 
warfare, holding faith and a good conscience, 
he is to be held in the highest esteem by us. 

"That Luther was such we do know, for he 


constantly defended purity of doctrine and kept 
a good conscience. There is no one who knew 
him, who does not know that he was possessed 
of the greatest kindness, and of the greatest 
affabiHty in the society of friends, and that he 
was in no sense contentious or quarrelsome. He 
also exhibited, as such a man ought, the greatest 
dignity of demeanor. He possessed * an upright 
character, a gracious speech.' 

"Rather may we apply to him the words of 
Paul: * Whatsoever things are true, whatso- 
ever things are honest, whatsoever things are 
just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever 
things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good 
report!' . . . 

"In the many grave deliberations incident to 
the public perils, we observed the transcendent 
vigor of his mind, his valour, his unshaken cour- 
age, where terror reigned. God was his anchor 
and his faith never failed him." 

Such briefly told, is the life of Martin Luther, 
who next to the Divine Founder of the Church 
and his Apostles has done most to dignify and 
ennoble mankind. In his life is to be found no 
base motive of any sort. Here is courage which 
dared to scrutinize the claims of the most august 


and powerful institution which the world has 
seen, and having discovered its weaknesses to 
declare them. Here is a passion for truth which 
laughs at the death of the body. Here is, above 
all, supreme faith in God. The courageous man 
may admire Luther, the man of intellectual in- 
dependence may sympathize with him, but only 
he can truly understand him who has felt the 
weight of sin and an intense longing for absolu- 
tion and peace. Luther would consider his life 
wasted if he were remembered only for his cour- 
age or for his service in liberating the human 
conscience from the shackles which bound it. 
His message to mankind is that " little gospel " 
which he rescued from obscurity and which 
brought comfort to his own heart: "God so 
loved the world, that he gave his only begotten 
Son, that whosoever believeth in him should 
not perish, but have everlasting life." This was 
to him the truth which was to save the soul, 
this the truth which was to make men free. 


U . S . A 






CIR. JUN17'81